Sundance 2011: Paul Rudd is a Lovable Dimwit in 'My Idiot Brother'
by Ethan Anderton
January 23, 2011
You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. This seems to be an unfortunate truth in for a small family in My Idiot Brother who has to deal with a naive, and simple-minded brother named Ned (Paul Rudd). Fresh out of prison for selling marijuana to a uniformed police office, Ned heads back home to spend some time with his mother and and his three sisters Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), and Nat (Zooey Deschanel). Though the three sisters are happy to see Ned and willing to help him any way they can, little do they know that Ned is about to unwittingly (and dimwittedly) turn their lives inside out and upside down.
Ned sticks around his hometown to try and make some money from his family (they have a mutual agreement to not lend money to each other), so he can afford to stay in his ex-lover's goat barn. But as much as he needs a place to stay other than his mother's house, he also wants back his loyal dog Willie Nelson back from his free-spirited, pacifist ex-girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) and her laid back, friendly boyfriend Billy (T.J. Miller). And so Ned begins doing some odd jobs for his three sisters and eventually makes his first move into Liz's house. He helps with their son River (who is in some strange dancing class when he really wants to do some karate) and eventually gets a job helping out Liz's husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) who is shooting a documentary about Tatiana, an oppressed Russian ballet dancer.
But things get a little sticky when Ned's influence on River seems strange to a child therapist (he's really into a fake form of karate that Ned has started "teaching" him) and accidentally discovers Dylan nude while having a private filming session with Tatiana. Ned, being his naive self doesn't entirely think anything strange of the nude film work (Dylan says it makes Tatiana feel less vulnerable) until Miranda realizes Dylan is cheating on Liz. And so Ned is forced to move out of the house and into Miranda's place.
This same formula follows as Ned moves into each of his sister's houses and inadvertently creates problems when he learns certain secret aspects of their lives. But the fault doesn't lie with Ned as his sisters are the ones living dishonest or unethical lives. His sister's are quick to disassociate themselves from him when he seems to be making a fool of himself, but their friends and colleagues just see him as an honest, genuine cool dude. Because it's Paul Rudd, that characteristic really comes through.
It's Rudd's charisma that really makes this film funnier and more charming than it is on paper. I honestly think the script isn't the strongest part of the flick, but the cast works wonders with their characters and dialogue making it seem funny, but natural. From the dynamic between Mortimer, Banks and Deschanel as arguing, feisty sisters to characters like Nat's dorky, boyish, lesbian lover played flawlessly by Rashida Jones and T.J. Miller as the aforementioned pothead boyfriend of Ned's ex-lover. Seriously the entire cast makes this comedy shine, but keeps the laughs grounded and away from going over-the top. My Idiot Brother is a heart-warming look at a dysfunctional family and director Jesse Peretz brings a phenomenal cast to gether to teach a lesson to everyone who has that weird sibling out there that family knows no bounds.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 7.5 out of 10