Sundance Review: 'My Idiot Brother' isn't a dumb comedy, but is it funny enough?
PARK CITY - Perhaps the hype was just a bit too much, but Jesse Perez's "My Idiot Brother" is not the slamdunk comedy most Sundance Film Festival attendees were hoping for.
The concept is pretty simple. Paul Rudd is Ned, the all too honest brother and organic farmer of three sisters played by Emily Mortimer (married, rich, unhappy), Zooey Deschanel (loose, secretive, lesbian) and Elizabeth Banks (bitchy, single, corrupt). Ned has just finished eight months in jail after being coerced into selling pot to a police offer he thought he was just being nice to. After being paroled early for being such a good guy he discovers his girlfriend of three years (a "I wish there was more of her" Kathryn Hahn) has hooked up with another guy and won't let him live back on their farm. After a quick pit stop with good ol' mom, he ends up moving in with each of his three sisters until, one by one, they just can't take him anymore and for a variety reasons. Basically, he's so uncorrupt and naively honest he becomes the film's comic foil for unintentionally enlightening on their own personal faults. Eventually, everyone comes around and realizes what a great guy their brother is and either how wonderful their own relationships are and/or what they need to do to be happy in their own lives.
Make no mistake, "Brother's" heart is in the right place. It wants to wants to use Ned's family to explore hypocrisy and moral failures in a commercial comedy setting. Unfortunately, besides some sporadic moments, the film just isn't as funny as it wants to be while doing so. And that's not to say it's a bad film or not entertaining at times, but there are many scenes that aren't as laughable as they should be. Moreover, the three sister storylines are too much and feel increasingly repetitive. In fact, I'm still not sure what the point of Zooey Deschanel's storyline even is. No doubt looking for the widest possible audience, Perez shot the picture in such a conventionally commercial style that when he wants to get "serious" "Brother" feels like a pat studio flick (Strangely, "Brother" isn't even as funny as Perez's last film, "The Ex," which found itself the victim of a bad title, marketing campaign and release schedule back in 2006).
Rudd, on the other hand, effortlessly gives it his all as Ned making him seem less like a distant cousin of Jeff Bridges' "The Dude" from "The Big Lebowski" than he could have turned out to be. And while at times Rudd is able to use his formidable acting skills to generate laughs from a bumpy screenplay, even he can't save the film from its triple sister threat.
Will "My Idiot Brother" get picked up? Yes. Will it find enough fans to crossover into a mainstream hit? That remains to be seen.