In “Our Idiot Brother,” Paul Rudd plays Ned Rockland, a bio-dynamic farmer who looks like he was transported straight from the summer of ’69 with his long, scraggly hair and scruffy face. Ned has good intentions, just not a lot of common sense, hence the title of the film.
The film opens with him selling goods at a local farmers market. Eight months later, after he is released from jail for a sale of a different kind, he finds himself single and homeless. His girlfriend of three years, Janet (Kathryn Hahn), has already moved on with another boyfriend. Sadly, there is no room for Ned. To make matters worse, he can’t take his beloved dog, Willie Nelson.
With nowhere else to turn, he goes to his mother’s home where he is comforted by her unconditional love and weekly dinners with his family. Ned has three sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), an ambitious magazine writer, Natalie (Zoe Deschanel), a bisexual, aspiring stand-up comic; and Liz (Emily Mortimer), a married mother of two. This family puts the fun in dysfunctional, as they bicker, repeatedly check cell phones for texts and emails, and reluctantly play Charades.
Part of Ned getting his life back in order is checking in with his parole officer, Omar (Sterling K. Brown). The other part is bouncing from house to house in one unpredictable situation to the next.
He adores Liz’s son, River (Matthew Mindler), but faces conflict with her documentary filmmaker husband, Dylan (Steve Coogan). He tries to help Miranda and Natalie in their professional and love lives, but disaster strikes again. Ned aims to please, but misses the mark each time.
Rudd’s portrayal of Ned is a charming one. You want to shake some sense into the character at times and hug him at others. He is a really nice guy, but a little too nice. He is carefree but its to the point of irresponsibility.
While Ned isn’t the most mature person in the world, neither are his sisters. Liz is a frumpy mother who avoids the elephant in the room when it comes to her marriage. Miranda will do anything to work her way up the ladder at Vanity Fair, even if it means compromising her integrity. Natalie is all over the place in her work, career, sexuality and relationship with her lawyer girlfriend, Cindy (Rashida Jones).
The sisters spend so much time treating Ned horribly that they don’t take time to improve their own lives. To her credit, Liz is the closest to her brother and tries to support him. But she still winds up kicking him out of her home.
Overall, this is a really likeable film. It is entirely driven by Rudd, who is best-known for his comedic roles in Judd Apatow films such as “Knocked Up,” “Anchorman” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Being friends with Apatow definitely pays off, as others in the film have shared the screen in his films with Rudd.
There are multiple story lines but the film is written in a way where everything comes together seamlessly. There are many instances where characters are oblivious of problems in their own lives. It is during these times when you feel everyone is a bit of an idiot, not just Ned.
Nevertheless, you will like Ned. It’s almost as if you can’t help yourself. Deep down, he is a good guy who loves his family and his dog. These endearing qualities show he is a sweet brother, a great uncle and a good person.
So, have you figured out who that family member is yet? Is it you, perhaps? That’s OK, we all know you mean well. And we love you, too.