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Our Idiot Brother

The Weinstein Company // R // November 29, 2011
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 29, 2011 | E-mail the Author
"I'm...Officer...Omar...Coleman. I'm...your...parole...officer."
"I'm Ned Rockland. Why're you talkin' so slow?"
"I just figured -- lookin' at your sheet, it says you sold grass to a uniformed police officer -- that you must be retarded."
"Yeah, I get that a lot."

Our Idiot Brother camera...people act and funny... Wait, wait, this isn't working. There's something I've just gotta get out of my system first:

Ah, there we go! Sweet, sweet release. I guess for full disclosure and all, I should mention that I can't really pan a movie that has Zooey Deschanel and Rashida Jones making out. Maybe I'm a cheap date, and maybe I'm an awful human being, but I'm not gonna pretend to be unbiased here.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah! The plot summary part of the deal. The problem with Ned (Paul Rudd) isn't that he's an idiot; he's just so earnest and so eager to put his trust in his fellow man that it comes back to bite him in the ass. A lot. Anyway, after selling a dimebag or whatever to an on-duty police officer with the badge and the uniform and the hat and everything, Ned gets tossed in the klink for a few months. When he gets out, his girlfriend has shacked up with another dude (T.J. Miller), he gets the boot out
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of the farm where they were staying, and ::sniffles!:: that dreadlocked bitch is even holding Ned's golden retriever prisoner. No job. No money. No prospects. No place to stay. Well, um, that's what family's for, right? Ned bums couch space from each of his three sisters in the big city: Liz (Emily Mortimer), the mousey, uptight mom of the bunch, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), who's ambitious, career-oriented, and tries way too hard to look cover-model glamorous, and Nat (Zooey Deschanel), a freewheeling bisexual who's not exactly in a rush to map out a Five Year Plan or whatever. Ned means well and everything, but he royally screws up juuuuuuust about everything of any consequence in his sisters' lives. And he's still out a dog! What's a guy to do? Teach some valuable lessons about life, love, and happiness...that's what!

Our Idiot Brother is one of those movies you put on after a late lunch on Sunday, smile at for an hour and a half, put back in the case, and pretty much immediately forget about. That's kind of by design too. It doesn't aim for oversized, cackle-till-you-dryheave belly laughs. It's funny in a kind of subdued, relaxed way...not from labored dialogue shoehorned into the script or wildly over-the-top comedic setpieces, but because the characters have a hell of a lot of personality and because Our Idiot Brother is so. perfectly. cast. There's a healthy balance of drama in the mix, and again, it's kind of restrained, not drenched in syrupy strings and leaving you fumbling for that box of Kleenex on the coffee table. Our Idiot Brother keeps it all pretty low-key. Because there's nothing big or ambitious about it, this isn't a movie that's likely to spark a whole lot of conversation afterwards. You're not gonna be talking about it for days on end, you're not going to excitedly grab it off the shelf the next time one of your close friends drops by, and you're not gonna rant and/or
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rave on some Internet message board or another. If I didn't have to write this review, I'd probably just shrug, say "oh, Our Idiot Brother was pretty good, I guess. Yeah, I liked it", and leave it somewhere around there.

The material's fine but forgettable. Since Our Idiot Brother really isn't swinging for the fences, you won't groan at any of the gags or roll your eyes at any of the more emotional stuff. Ned is pretty much a Manic Pixie Dream Girl with a full beard and a dong: a little imp who bounces into the lives of his uptight, neurotic sisters to show them how much love and happiness they have at their fingertips that's been going unappreciated, and even though things go kind of disastrously wrong along the way, Ned isn't really to blame for any of it and it all ends happily ever after. With pretty much any other group of actors on the bill, Our Idiot Brother would be just another competent, totally routine indie comedy/drama you'd skim past on the On Demand listings or whatever. But...geez, this is kind of approaching Dream Cast territory. Seriously, name ten actors you love watching in comedies, and it's a pretty safe bet at least half of 'em are somewhere in here. (If it's any less than that, you probably have shitty taste. Sorry.) Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, T.J. Miller, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, Steve Coogan, Kathryn Hahn, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer...they're the ones who make Our Idiot Brother what it is. This is a cast with charm to spare, and they infuse their characters with so much life and personality that they greatly elevate the somewhat standard-issue indie comedy material. If you're a fan of any of these actors -- and bonus points if you're a fan of several! -- you'll probably walk away a fan of Our Idiot Brother too. Cute, charming, and...okay, lightweight and totally disposable, but I like it anyway. Recommended.

The Pretty doesn't stop with that gaggle of gorgeous actresses on the bill. Our Idiot Brother looks terrific in high-def, boasting a silky smooth texture, a really strong sense of definition, and a nicely saturated palette. The movie was shot on the Red One, and there's that flattish contrast and very faint tinge of softness -- especially around edges -- that I'm kind of used to seeing in productions lugging around that particular camera, but that's not even a little bit distracting or disappointing. Our Idiot Brother doesn't really stumble on its way to Blu-ray either, not dragged down by any hiccups in the compression, artificial sharpening, excessive filtering, or whatever else you'd normally want to gripe about. A nice lookin' disc and a very substantial upgrade over anything DVD could hope to deliver.

Our Idiot Brother is dished out on a single-layer Blu-ray disc. The movie's presented at the straightahead aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been encoded with AVC.

As if you hadn't really clued into this by now, Our Idiot Brother isn't the type of movie that's overflowing with aggressive split-surrounds and a foundation-rattling LFE so much. The emphasis is squarely placed on
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dialogue first and foremost, and every last line is consistently rendered cleanly, clearly, and distinctly throughout. The rears are reserved for reinforcing music as well as lobbing out light atmosphere: applause at a kind of cultish self-actualization seminar, background noise at a coffee shop, birds chirping somewhere off in the distance...that sort of thing. Seeing as how this is a 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and all, this lossless track ought to be a flawless reproduction of what was making the rounds in theaters. It's not some smolderingly intense, incendiary sonic experience or whatever, but this is exactly the sort of sound design a low-key indie dramedy like Our Idiot Brother needs, and I don't see much of anything to complain about.

No dubs or anything this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (9 min.; SD): One new subplot buzzes throughout this reel of four deleted and extended scenes: a guy on the subway who hits Ned up for $800 to help pay his kid's medical bills. It doesn't take a lot of convincing to get Ned to fork over that fist-sized roll of twenties, and...well, surprise, surprise, the dude doesn't show up on Friday to pay Ned back after all. There's more to it than that, but you're probably better off watching it rather than reading a play-by-play. There's also a completely different ending, and although this one is quite a bit bigger, I'll admit to finding it a lot less satisfying than the one that wound up in the final cut.

  • The Making of Our Idiot Brother (15 min.; SD): For the most part, this is a pretty routine EPK-style making-of piece, heavy on running through the characters and recapping the premise in between lots of snippets from the finished film. There's some brief chatter about Our Idiot Brother's approach to comedy, oodles of casting notes, and the actors and actresses talking about whether or not there are any idiot branches in their family trees. The highlight for me is Paul Rudd pointing out what an absurdly incredible life it is that director Jesse Peretz has led. This featurette isn't all that insightful or anything, but the smart money says that you're reading about Our Idiot Brother 'cause you're a fan of the cast, and since they're the focal point of this thing too, chances are you'll find it worth a look anyway.

  • Audio Commentary: Normally I'd expect an indie ensemble comedy-drama type thing like this to have at least a couple of the actors piling into the commentary booth too, but no, director Jesse Peretz shoulders this track by himself. Peretz proves to be such an engaging speaker that the rest of the folks aren't really missed all that much. He paints a really intriguing picture of what it must've been like to be on this set with this cast, and I really enjoyed hearing about the way these characters came together, that a couple of parts were written expressly for the actors who wound up playing 'em, and how the movie as a whole started to take shape. It's a fun, breezy listen, especially since Peretz peppers the commentary with so many
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    ridiculously great stories: jetting one actor he really wanted out to the set with some stockpiled frequent flyer miles, the influence of a pot farmer-turned-Franciscan monk, why Elizabeth Banks looks so eerily much like Parker Posey in this flick, Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones' day-long trampoline-fest not being nearly as much fun as it sounds, and Zooey Deschanel at Sundance dissecting the difference between Ned and Being There's Chauncey Gardiner. Worth a listen.

There's not a dedicated blooper reel or anything, but some of that stuff does play during Our Idiot Brother's end credits if you stick around.

The Final Word
Our Idiot Brother isn't trying to be some laff-a-minute comedy cavalcade sort of thing, so if you waltz in expecting a riotous Apatow flick or whatever, you're setting yourself up for a disappointment. No, Our Idiot Brother is exactly the movie it sets out to be: sweet, charming, quietly funny, and kinda touching. It's one of those low-key indie comedy/dramas that lives and dies on the strength of its cast, and...well, it'd be tough to come up with more of a dream cast than the one Our Idiot Brother has put together. It's a confection -- thin, sweet, sugary, and kind of a distant memory once you've finished gobbling it up -- but I was kind of won over by Our Idiot Brother anyway. I guess the short answer is that if you like the cast, you can't help but like the movie. So, yeah: Recommended.

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