Ned is so innocent and trusting that he counts his money on the New York subway and then, when something distracts him, he hands it to a total stranger to hold while he deals with the distraction. No wonder he's the title character in "Our Idiot Brother," a charming, very funny comedy that opens here today.
Paul Rudd produces an acting gem as Ned, who has either a great conscience or totally fried synapses. He is unable to lie, which causes many problems. When we meet him, he's just out of prison for selling marijuana to a cop -- in uniform, no less -- who admires the rhubarb Ned grows for a farmer's market.
Now a free man, because after all, stupidity is not a crime, Ned goes "home," but his girl friend, Janet (Kathryn Hahn), has found a new companion. Despite the fact that the two guys seem to have a lot in common, Janet tosses Ned. Adding insult to injury, she keeps Willie Nelson, Ned's golden retriever and only thing he seems to really love, or loves him back.
Acting on the theory that relatives' homes are where you go when there is no other secure site, Ned starts with the eldest sister, Liz (Emily Mortimer), who lives with her sleaze-bag of a rich, unfaithful husband (the excellent Steve Coogan), moves on to Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), an up-tight, hard-driving journalist, where his honest ingenuousness throws a giant monkey wrench into a story, then finds Natalie (the terrific Zooey Deschanel), a foul-mouthed cutie whose every other word is unprintable. Natalie isn't sure of her sexual preferences, so she takes an anyone-goes attitude. At the moment it's Rashida Jones.
Shirley Knight is the mother of this loose-string quartet; it's a shame she does not have more screen time.
Evgenia Peretz and her husband, David Schisgall, wrote the delightful, literate, sharp screenplay and her brother, Jesse, directs with a keen eye and a fine hand. Rudd obviously helped out with perfect ad lib contributions here and there. "Our Idiot Brother" is a film with style, and it's such a pleasure to enjoy comedy that is neither a heavy-handed, alcohol-fueled guy story nor a screechy, silly gal story.
Our Idiot Brother opens today on multiple screens