In a strange inverse parallel that might only make sense to me, the title quote I chose kind of describes my opinion of Our Idiot Brother. It is Ned’s (Paul Rudd) personality that makes the movie, but the overall film gets in the way of his personality if you will. As in the movie is fairly underwhelming, but Ned’s personality is pretty great. He believes the best about people, but not in an overly annoying kind of way.
Now by saying that this film was underwhelming I don’t necessarily mean that it was bad, because it wasn’t. It was a perfectly fine comedy about a family with very different members: Ned, the eternal optimist, determined to believe the best about everyone no matter what; Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), the spunky independent sister, who as a side note, I would argue has the best style in the movie; Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), the journalist with not just questionable professional ethics, but questionable overall common decency; and Liz (Emily Mortimer), the oblivious wife of an unquestionable jerk (Steve Coogan) who runs an unnecessarily uptight household…uptight minus his penchant for foreign ballet dancers that is. Funny how things like that work.
So there you briefly have it. Ned comes to live with each of his sisters in turn after getting released from prison for selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer. Does that sound like one of the more ridiculous decisions one could make? Well, yes. However, watching the scene makes Ned’s choice a lot more understandable than you would think by just hearing about it. He’s not a complete idiot, just very very good natured. And the cop puts on a good show. You could believably fall for his bad day story if you had a lot of compassion, like Ned, and wanted to think the best of everyone. All I’m saying is that the predictable question of “how could anyone be so stupid” isn’t so cut and dry, despite what Ned’s sisters might initially think.
They have drama of their own, but it’s fairly predictable drama revolving around work and relationships. It’s necessary for them to have these problems because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be anything for Ned to meddle in, and then we wouldn’t have a movie. He always has the best intentions, but more often than not, with less-than-stellar results. To say the least. Comments that some people might “accidentally” make to another person to get a reaction, Ned actually just says without giving it a second thought. Not being honest is a foreign concept to him. I wonder how frustrating it would become to live with someone so easygoing.
Here’s the thing about Our Idiot Brother. Before I saw it, I heard it referred to (by someone else who hadn’t seen it yet) as a “dumb comedy.” From the previews I had seen, I would have guessed this to be a fairly accurate expectation for the film. Truth be told, it is not so much of a dumb comedy as I would have thought. Comedy to be sure, but not comedy in a Knocked Up or Superbad sense of the word. It’s slightly more charming, I guess would be the best description.
This is not why I consider the movie to just be average (maybe a little above). I think Peter Travers was just a tad too critical, but that Roger Ebert was a little too generous in his critique. I fall right in the middle of the two. I think this way because I wasn’t bored during the film, but it also didn’t hold my attention the way a really good movie would. That is to say, if I don’t get irritated at someone for talking to me during a film, or if I allow myself to get distracted, odds are, it’s not that fascinating.
What I was most irritated about, and this is what really cemented my opinion, was the conclusion of the movie. If it would have ended three minutes before it did, then I would have probably been okay with it, but not so much this way. I’m all for a happy ending, but not if it ends up beyond an unrealistic cliché.