Paul Rudd’s charm has seldom been taxed as relentlessly as in Our Idiot Brother, which might as well be called Paul Rudd Is Charming: The Movie. Despite a cast that includes Rashida Jones, Elizabeth Banks, T.J. Miller, Steve Coogan, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott, and Zooey Deschanel, Our Idiot Brother is a one-man show that leans far too heavily on its lead’s charisma and likability. Rudd ably carries the film while retaining a light touch, though even with Rudd in the lead, it’s still a featherweight trifle, an afternoon nap of a feel-good comedy.
Rudd stars as a farmer leading a life of mellow contentment and good vibes until a uniformed cop baits him into selling weed and he ends up in prison. Exiled from his hippie paradise upon release, Rudd meanders back into the lives of his three sisters: desperate would-be comedian Zooey Deschanel, who tries to compensate for low self-esteem with promiscuity; depressed mom Emily Mortimer; and uptight striver Elizabeth Banks. Life lessons ensue.
Rudd plays the lead as a man so sweet and guileless that he’s incapable of the white lies, evasions, and compromises of adulthood. He’s a simple man of enormous moral and spiritual clarity who infects his hopelessly neurotic sisters with his laissez-faire attitude toward life. Rudd might just be cinema’s first Manic Pixie Dream Boy: the dynamic is the same—impish life-lover devoid of an inner life or personal needs shakes up the lives of the depressed and anxious—even if the gender dynamics are reversed. Our Idiot Brother still represents a male fantasy, only this time it’s an awesome dude shaking up lives and opening minds. It’s just too bad the filmmakers feel the need to surround Rudd with shrill, misanthropic caricatures so that his decency and lack of pretension stands out in even sharper relief. Our Idiot Brother is an affable enough time-waster custom-made for casual viewing on cable TV, but Rudd deserves better.