Ned Rochlin is your average lovable idiot. He is a nice and pleasant dude, but the problem is that he trusts people a little too much and he thinks a little too less about what he says and does. The opening scene is a very good example of his foolish behaviors. When he sells his organic vegetables and fruits from his farm at the town market, a town police officer approaches and he indirectly asks Ned whether Ned can sell marijuana to him. Instead of evading the question, Ned promptly takes out marijuana in front of the officer, and he is even quite clueless about what the officer is trying to do to him.
“Our Idiot Brother” is a small sweet comedy about this gentle and hapless man who usually sees the good sides of the people around him. He makes many mistakes, and he makes others annoyed sometimes, but he is someone you cannot help but like him. He just wants to be nice to others, and he is really nice enough to be labeled as a ‘secular holy fool’, and I come to like him more than I did at the beginning.
After that hilarious opening scene mentioned above, Ned(Paul Rudd) is instantly arrested by that officer, and he is sentenced to several months in jail. I do not know how he spent his time in jail, but I must say that not many prisoners can receive hearty send-offs by both guards and prisoners like Ned, who looks as pleasant and optimistic as ever when he gets out of the prison.
But his situation is as not optimistic as he thinks. His former girlfriend Janet(Kathryn Hahn) does not accept him into their farm house, and this mean girl does not even allow him to take his beloved dog(its name is Willie Nelson, by the way) just because it did not originally belong to him. At least he has his kind mother(Shirley Knight) who welcomes him at their family house, but, even though he is naive, he knows that he has to lead an independent life as an adult, so he looks for any opportunities for a new start.
His dear three sisters, who have been too busy with their own matters to take care of their idiot brother, reluctantly try to help Ned, but soon they realize they made a pretty big ‘mistake’. Ned has no malice to his sisters, but he is so naive and transparent that he becomes a truth teller who shakes their lives by saying wrong things at wrong moments. For instance, the eldest sister Liz(Emily Mortimer) is not so pleased about how Ned and her little son River(Matthew Mindler) spend lots of time together when their son is about to have an interview for the enrollment to some prestigious private school. Furthermore, thanks to Ned’s another blunder, She later realizes that her despicable husband(Steve Coogan) is nothing but a hypocritical adulterer who has cheated on her.
The other sisters’ lives are as problematic as Liz’s, and, of course, Ned also exposes their problems even though he does not mean to. Miranda(Elizabeth Banks) is a magazine writer looking for a big chance, and she gets a very good one through Ned by coincidence, but she soon finds that it is really unwise to use a simple-minded guy like Ned, who also indirectly makes her to face her rather ambiguous relationship with her neighbour/best friend Jeremy(Adam Scott). In case of Natalie(Zooey Deschanel), she faces a big personal problem which may destroy the relationship with her lover Cindy(Rashida Jones), and you will probably have a good idea about what will happen when Ned discovers it and then she lies to him. Even when he is lied to, Ned is an invincible truth teller who cannot tell lies even if he tells the lies received from others.
Paul Rudd has provided good comic performances through several recent comedy films including “Knocked up”(2007) and “Role Model”(2008), and he fully utilizes his natural comic talents in a likable performance while keeping his character from being totally idiotic. He may be an idiot as others say, and he may be a little too casual about weeds(At one moment, he unknowingly puts his parole officer, a kind guy who likes Ned, in a professionally difficult situation), but he is not that stupid. His goofiness comes out of his inherent good will, and, when he thinks it is wrong to do something at one moment, he is adamant about his decision no matter what.
The director/co-writer assembles talented performers with good comic timings around Rudd, and they also bring considerable humor and warmth to the movie. Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel bring distinctive qualities to their respective characters; Ned’s sisters have many flaws including pettiness and selfishness, but they are essentially nice people who can learn the lessons from the clash with their ‘troublemaker’ brother, and they rise to the occasion when they have to do something for him. Though they do not have many things to do, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, and Steve Coogan are welcoming additions to the story with their mere presences at the fringe of the story.
“Our Idiot Brother”, which is belatedly released in South Korea on this weekend and will probably be brought down soon before being sent directly to DVD store, is a charming film with good laughs which is as harmless and pleasant as its naive hero. Thanks to Paul Rudd’s good-natured performance, I believe and like his character, and you may remember someone similar to him in your life. They are easily fooled, and they are frequently laughed at, but they mostly do not care about that much while smiling and being nice to others around them. I’d love to have such guys like Ned – as long as I have nothing to hide from him.