Posted in: Disc Reviews by M. W. Phillips on December 14th, 2011
“Here’s the thing, I… I live my life a certain way. And that is that I like to think that if you put your trust out there, I mean, if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, they’re gonna want to live up to it. It doesn’t always work out, clearly, but, more often than not, I think that if you do, people will rise to the occasion. I really believe that.”
In a deck of Tarot cards there is a major arcana card called The Fool. It depicts a young man wearing colorful motley clothes and carrying all his possessions in a bag on his back. A dog barks at his heel as he heads off into the world, his eyes so full of wonder and excitement he doesn’t see the cliff directly in front of him. Our Idiot Brother is a movie about that kind of fool.
Ned (Paul Rudd) is the youngest and only male sibling in a large New York family surrounded by the type of driven, fast thinking, controlling, cynical, and self-absorbed women so common in Manhattan. The oldest sister, Liz (Emily Mortimer), struggles with her frigid marriage to her wealthy trust fund baby husband, Dylan (Steve Coogan) and overcompensates by being a helicopter mom to her young son River (Matthew Mindler). Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is married to her career at Vanity Fair leaving no time for romance. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a model and borderline sex addict, finds her long-term lesbian relationship with Cindy (Rashida Jones) growing stale and is tempted by sexy artist Christian (Hugh Dancy).
Ned chose a different path in life. Working as a biodynamic farmer and street-vending his organic wares, his idyllic lifestyle comes to an abrupt end when he sells some pot to a uniformed police officer. Now I know what you’re thinking, he has to be an idiot or at least mentally disabled to do something so stupid, but that simply is not true. If you read the quote at the head of this review, you see Ned lives by a pure and simple philosophy. If you believe the best of your fellow man, they will rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work every time, and it can come back to bite him in the ass. Yet this doesn’t deter Ned. Even after a couple years in jail, he still is determined to trust unconditionally while the cynical around Ned try to convince him no good deed goes unpunished.
Once released on good behavior, Ned sets off to reestablish his life. He finds in his absence his former girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn), a mean controlling bitch who owns the biodynamic farm, has taken up with a new simple-minded boyfriend. She kicks Ned off the farm, and rubbing salt in the wound, she won’t let Ned have his dog, Willie Nelson, back. There is nothing in the world Ned loves more than Willie Nelson, and the feeling is mutual.
Yet this still doesn’t crush Ned’s spirit, and he sets off back home to live with his mom (Shirley Knight), but soon realizes he can’t stay with her. So he turns to his sisters. As each take him in, Ned’s lack of guile creates chaos. One by one they pass him off on each other, and each time his naïve honesty acts as Kryptonite to their complicated and insincere lives.
OK, there is some funny in here, but mainly this is a dramedy with heavy emphasis on family drama. Rudd’s performance cements the rest of the excellent cast. I believed in Ned. I had trouble watching him dig himself in deeper and deeper trouble, but, like him, I wanted to believe the rest of the world would rise to the occasion. The movie strikes an emotional resonance when, at last, after all the shit thrown his way, we witness the cynicism which infects his sisters slowly poison him.
Our Idiot Brother boasts a beautiful MPEG-4/AVC 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer running an average of 28Mbps. Digitally shot and transferred, the source is pristine with no artifacting or digital anomalies. Colors are bright and complement the themes perfectly. Blacks are stable and detailed even in the darkest scenes. Skin tones are natural and the detail is rock solid, displaying great depth. Anchor Bay has provided an excellent Blu-ray presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack does exactly what is expected of it for such a subdued and talk-focused film. The ambient surround is immersive when called for, like during the farm and city street scenes. Dialog is clear and well balanced with SFX and music. There really isn’t much use of LFE other than the occasional music bed pop, and since the focus of the film stays front and center, so does the audio.
- Audio Commentary: Director Jesse Peretz gives a nicely detailed if rather bland commentary. If you like the film-school style commentary, you will enjoy this. It is well thought out and filled with production details and anecdotes.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (480p, 8:56): Ned Takes the Subway, Ned Waits for John, Ned in Prison, and Alternate Ending. There is a running gag in these clips dealing with Ned lending money to a stranger that I think would have added to the movie and should have been worked back in.
- he Making of Our Idiot Brother (480p, 14:36): Your standard EPK with cast and crew interviews interspersed with clips from the film.
Our Idiot Brother simply was mis-promoted. It is not a quirky, laugh-out-loud comedy as we’ve come to expect from most Paul Rudd movies. However, it is an effective dramedy. You will find yourself smiling and sometimes even moved by the family dynamics and Rudd’s layered performance. Keep in mind, this is no Being There. Overall Our Idiot Brother is just a light, sweet film that draws you in while it’s on, but you will likely forget about as soon as it ends. I would go with renting instead of buying this one, unless you, like many others, have an endearing idiot brother in your family walking the blessed path of The Fool.
“I need some leg warmers, my Croc is stuck!”