The 28th Best Movie I Saw This Year: Our Idiot Brother

Every year when I do this list, I hit a point where I realize the movies have moved from “movies I consider bad movies” to “movies I consider good movies.”  I’ll start writing a review, and instead of focusing on all the reasons I think it failed, I’ll focus on the reasons I liked it. We’ve crossed a line.

This is not that movie. This is the movie that is exactly on that line.

It’s entirely appropriate I watched this movie on a plane, since that seems to be the perfect medium for enjoying this film. It passed the time, and while I was not, perhaps enjoying myself, I was also not necessarily not enjoying myself. I was just watching a movie. On a plane. Like people do.

Our Idiot Brother features Paul Rudd as a pleasant, slovenly hippie whose unwavering belief in the good in humanity constantly lands him in trouble. He sells pot to a uniformed police officer simply because he asks nicely. Even after getting busted, Rudd simply tosses up his hands and moans “aw, man!” Nothing really gets his character down, other than the loss of his dog, Willie Nelson (I remember the name of the dog but no other characters, because the dog is referred to by his full name upwards of 70 times during the movie. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be funny. I know for a fact that it was exhausting). Instead, he floats along, untouched by normal human emotions. And by extension, so does this movie.

It's only after Rudd starts trying to move in with his sisters that things develop any momentum. He slouches cheerfully into their lives, and accidentally ruins all of them. Or does he? Is perhaps his innocence a mirror that simply shows the ugly reflections of what these women have allowed their lives to become?

Of course it is. And I know that, because I've seen a movie before.

There's nothing surprising here, nothing new. Everyone does a very good job at playing the roles they were handed, and all the actors in the film are likable and funny: Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, Adam Scott, Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones... the list of talented performers here is remarkable. And they are not underutilized. They are merely... utilized. Exactly as you'd expect them to be.

The only times the movie shakes loose from its moorings is in what seem like mostly improvised scenes between Rudd and TJ Miller, revealing an easy comedic chemistry missing from most of the film. They made me realize what a carefree comedy-drama this film could have really been, especially considering the marvelous cast. Instead, this movie proved to be not much of anything at all.