My Idiot Brother seemed more like the average studio comedy than a Sundance movie. There were a few inspired moments but mostly embarrassing misfires. It kind of feels like the whole movie is Kuno from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and that gets old as the main character.
Ned (Paul Rudd) is the idiot. He’s clearly a nice guy because he gives a little girl free fruit when he’s working a fruit stand. He also sells pot to a uniformed cop because he really buys the story that he just needs to relax. It’s a sting, which honestly I’ll admit, I would not expect a cop to be so blatant either. Also Ned’s dog is named Willie Nelson.
Once out of jail, Ned’s girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) dumps him and keeps the dog. His family tries to support him, but they’re really condescending. They take turns letting him live with them. Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is bisexual with a girlfriend (Rashida Jones). Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a journalist trying to get the dirt on Lady Arabella (Janet Montgomery). Liz (Emily Mortimer) is married to Dylan (Steve Coogan), a filmmaker making a documentary on a ballet dancer, basically ogling her doing the splits.
Here are examples of some of the wacky hysterics of My Idiot Brother. Dylan bumps into a wall. Liz and Dylan’s kids take African dance class. Ned walks right through Dylan’s shot while he’s filming. Ned pretends to throw his urine sample at his parole officer. Ned goes to a self-help seminar in a sauna and passes out. An elaborate contrivance has Ned sitting in a tow zone all night, when a traffic cop comes he realizes Dylan has the car keys, and walks in on Dylan naked with the ballerina.
The plot complications revolve around Ned delivering information he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that Dylan is cheating on Liz until Miranda explains that’s what he saw. Ned is honest to a fault. When Miranda’s neighbor Jeremy (Adam Scott) mentions a few of Miranda’s faults, Ned just tells her. Then when Miranda bashes Jeremy, he tells him. He also tells Natalie’s girlfriend that Nat’s still sleeping with guys too.
By the end I sort of got what the film was going for, but I don’t think it established it clearly enough. The sister’s have so many smart thoughts that they try to control everything. Ned just relates to people, even if he can’t read them. He charms Lady Arabella so she opens up to him, but when Miranda wants to use the secrets he got, he won’t vouch for her story. So he’s got integrity.
It’s wisdom through idiocy basically, as if being childlike is better than being grown-up and cynical. Well, when these are your sisters, Ned is the lesser of four evils. There’s still a good balance where you can have good values but also take care of yourself.