Andy Bockelman: ‘Idiot Brother’ is one sweet guy | CraigDailyPress.com

Andy Bockelman: ‘Idiot Brother’ is one sweet guy

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

What would you call someone who always believes the best in people and tries not to be hateful of anyone? Most folks would probably refer to a person like that as a good guy to have around, but there are three sisters who think of this hypothetical man as "Our Idiot Brother."

After a massive blunder that leads to incarceration, nice guy Ned (Paul Rudd) is hoping to get his life back on track. But, during his time in prison, his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) has moved, bringing in a new lover (TJ Miller) and claiming Ned's golden retriever, Willie Nelson, as her own.

In need of a new living situation, Ned must stay either with his mother (Shirley Knight) or with one of his sisters — self-centered journalist Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), promiscuous bohemian Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) or uptight wife and mother Liz (Emily Mortimer). None of them has the time or interest in helping her brother get back on his feet, but, with family obligations weighing heavily on them, they each agree to give him a hand.

Unfortunately, Ned has a knack for screwing up when attempting to do the right thing, and he quickly wreaks havoc on their personal lives.

Rudd has one of his best roles ever as the man with a heart of gold and a head full of lead, with Ned always following his instinct rather than his brain. After seeing the actor play the straight man to Steve Carell's moron in "Dinner for Schmucks," it's odd to see him as the simpleton, but the difference here is that Ned is completely aware of how he comes off to others, willing to look like a fool for the sake of his principles.

And, whether he's accidentally exposing infidelities and lies or being a poor role model for kids, he gives his siblings plenty of reason to think he's mentally incompetent.

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Banks is the most fun as sharp-tongued Miranda, who's quick to deride Ned for his trustworthy nature but just as quick to use him when it suits her. Mortimer is also good as soft-spoken Liz, whose documentarian husband (Steve Coogan) treats her like dirt and refuses to put up with Ned for too long because he can't stand the effect the slacker has on their young son (Matthew Mindler).

After all, it's normal for most parents to want to see their children miserable and repressed.

Deschanel does her best as poorly defined bisexual Natalie, the baby of the family, who despite having a committed girlfriend (Rashida Jones) still feels the need to seek the company of men. And, that's kind of a hard thing to hide when you get pregnant.

In the last decade, there's been a major surge of comedies focused on families with grown children who just can't seem to get it together. But, as the saying goes, all happy families are alike, while every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

For Ned and his clan, their way seems to be nice enough, as all their backbiting and bile never really gets to be too much to take, especially since the man at the center of all the conflict never has any malicious intentions.

After all, what else would you expect from a guy who trusts a complete stranger to hold a big wad of cash for him while he ties his shoes?

Ned's complete lack of a purpose other than taking care of his dog is both his strong point and his downfall, as his presence in his sisters' lives becomes more and more cumbersome. This makes the story about as aimless as Ned himself once you realize Miranda, Natalie and Liz have no one to blame for their problems aside from themselves and taking their frustrations out on their brother only exacerbates the tension.

Rudd's happy-go-lucky charm makes "Our Idiot Brother" worth watching, even if everyone around him is mired in negativity. But, try as they might, even his sisters can't resist his personality and like us, will want to wrap in a big group hug.

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“Our Idiot Brother”

2.5 out of 4 stars

90 minutes

Starring: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel.

Now showing at West Theatre.

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