Ignorance is bliss – Our Idiot Brother review

Our Idiot Brother  – Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel. Directed by Jesse Peretz. Rated M. By Hilary Simmons.

Ned (Paul Rudd) lives on a hippie commune, grows biodynamic tomatoes, and gives his wholehearted love and attention to a golden retriever called Willie Nelson. He is a sweet-spirited idealist – that is, until the day he sells pot to a uniformed police officer and is officially reclassified as an idiot.

After a brief stint in prison, Ned is released for good behaviour and returns to his dreadlocked spouse Janet (Kathryn Hahn), only to discover she has shacked up with another pacifist (and taken exclusive custody of his canine companion). A confounded Ned has no choice but to move back to his mum’s house. However, his mother’s nightly ritual of white wine and retro babytalk proves a tad claustrophobic as he processes the consequences of trusting others unconditionally and indiscriminately. Luckily, his three uptown sisters have all said how much they would loooove to see him in New York.

Ned stands out like a sore thumb in the city that never sleeps. He sets about screwing up the lives of his three sisters with his unique brand of unhomogenised innocence and organic truthfulness. What bisexual Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), career-embattled Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and deludedly married Liz (Emily Mortimer) see as conclusive proof of his complete lack of common sense is, to Ned, the result of a string of “communication breakdowns.”

Ned is a bearded, buoyant beatnik, beaming genially at everyone and blithely seeing good will everywhere. He is the kind of loveable idiot everyone can relate to, sharing many obvious qualities with the giant golden retriever Willie Nelson. Several Nelson songs feature on the soundtrack, including “I’ve Got a Wonderful Future Behind Me,” “Ol’ Blue” and a sweet cover of “Midnight Rider.” It’s one of the highlights of Jesse Peretz‘s Our Idiot Brother. Others include the hilarity of hippie culture, pretentious vegetables, failed polygamy, karate for little boys, nude Russians, and candle-making. Throughout the film, Rudd is totally convincing as the mellow dude whose transparency inadvertently exposes the artificiality of his sisters’ lives and makes them take another look at themselves. The ending is awfully corny – still, with a cast this strong, you’ll accept it as contentedly as Ned does.

3/5

Our Idiot Brother is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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