Paul Rudd in Our Idiot BrotherWe all know someone like the lead character in Our Idiot Brother: generous, kind and, consequently, indescribably gullible. We worry they’ll be taken advantage of or that the unforgiving, competitive world will eat them alive. But you also can’t help but to adore them for being so hones and having all these qualities. That’s the relationship director Jesse Peretz builds between the audience and Ned.

Ned (Paul Rudd) is his own worst enemy. His tendency to always assume the best of people leads to numerous crises, including a couple of jail terms (he sells pot to a uniformed cop) and failed relationships. Nonetheless, he has three mostly supportive and caring sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is an ambitious journalist; Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is in a loving, committed relationship that scares her; and Liz (Emily Mortimer) is a housewife with two kids and a husband (Steve Coogan) who ignores her. Everyone loves Ned and has really just become accustomed to bailing him out. But even the closest families have a limit and there’s only so much honesty people can take.

With such an accomplished cast, my expectations were high. And it’s not that I was disappointed, but the film didn’t quite reach the level of hilarity for which I’d hoped. We can blame Rudd’s numerous partnerings with Judd Apatow for that. Nonetheless, Our Idiot Brother is funny, sarcastic and sometimes unexpected. This is a family that doesn’t spend much of its time bickering; in fact, they enjoy each other’s company and talk like friends at their mother’s (Shirley Knight) house every week for dinner. The dialogue is witty in a way that still makes Ned look slower than the rest of the characters, which is the source of most of the comedy. It’s not laugh-out-loud slapstick, but it’s amusing while remaining touching.

Ned is the narrative’s linchpin and Rudd holds it all together very well. He embodies Ned’s easy going nature and appears genuinely naive in most situations. In addition, his scenes with Liz’s son are a brilliant reflection of his own childlike approach to life. All the women – Banks, Deschanel, Mortimer and Knight – are wonderful and unique, representing various lifestyles and personalities; they’re different from one another, but still able to relate to each other on the basest level. Coogan has a limited role as a lying, insensitive jerk, which he plays exceptionally well — especially when obstinately sticking to ridiculous cover-ups and passing blame.

Rather than a family drama, this film is more like a family comedy. It stays pretty safe and even key, but doesn’t suffer as much as one would expect from that decision. I can only attribute this to the excellent cast and performances.

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