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Our Idiot Brother Blu-ray Review

Our Idiot Brother (2011) movie poster Our Idiot Brother

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2011 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Jesse Peretz / Writers: Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall (story & screenplay); Jesse Peretz (story)

Cast: Paul Rudd (Ned Rochlin), Elizabeth Banks (Miranda Rochlin), Zooey Deschanel (Natalie Rochlin), Emily Mortimer (Liz), Steve Coogan (Dylan), Hugh Dancy (Christian), Kathryn Hahn (Janet), Rashida Jones (Cindy), Shirley Knight (Ilene Rochlin), T.J. Miller (Billy), Adam Scott (Jeremy), Janet Montgomery (Lady Arabella), Sterling Brown (Officer Omar Coleman), Matthew Mindler (River), Bob Stephenson (Officer Washburn), Lydia Haug (Tatiana), Marceline Hugot (Judith), Polly Draper (Ellen), Katie Aselton (Amy)

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After a decade of being able to show up in everything from Clueless to The Cider House Rules without being especially memorable, Paul Rudd enjoyed the worldwide exposure of a recurring role on America's #1 TV show, "Friends." Then, he was cast in Anchorman as confident field reporter Brian Fantana. That role in the oft-quoted, oft-rewatched 1970s news station satire would have significant consequences for the actor, then 35. The film's wildly loyal producer Judd Apatow, then known as a showrunner of acclaimed but short-lived TV comedies, would again cast Rudd in his hit feature directing debut,
The 40 Year Old Virgin. And again in Knocked Up. Then came Forgetting Sarah Marshall. At the same time, Rudd would gladly make cameos for Apatow (Walk Hard, Year One) or seemingly anyone else who asked him (from Night at the Museum to Reno 911!: Miami to Adult Swim's "Delocated").

By 2008, Rudd was more than recognizable, he was an integral part of the Apatowverse and when raunchy R-rated comedies in the style of the producer/director/writer's started to crop up, they did so with Rudd in a leading role. Scoring back-to-back strong showings in Role Models and I Love You, Man, Rudd had seemingly arrived, at least in movies that didn't rely solely on him to get audiences in seats. Mid-range success followed Rudd and his fellow "Frat Pack" member Steve Carell in last year's PG-13 Dinner for Schmucks. But not on James L. Brooks' poorly-received, absurdly unprofitable awards bait How Do You Know, in which Rudd was unquestionably the best part.

Late last summer, Rudd seemed determined to stretch his chops and audience expectations as the solo leading man of Our Idiot Brother. Here, Rudd departs from his usual clean-cut straight guy persona as well as the concept-driven collaboration to which he had clearly grown comfortable. The teaser one-sheet established this as the very first Paul Rudd vehicle, assuming you could recognize him in his Jesus look laying in a field of daffodils with orange Crocs. The R-rated comedy, which marked Rudd's third time working with writer/director Jesse Peretz (The Ex, The Chβteau), earned two positive reviews for every negative one, but it stalled at the box office, grossing just under $25 million in its wide theatrical release and hardly anything anywhere else. The performance was comparable to How Do You Know, but whereas that old-fashioned flop carried an inconceivable $120 M price tag, Idiot's stated budget was a mere $5 M.

Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd) dons a sweater and a smile in front of the police officer who is about to lead to jail time. Things get real for Ned's three sisters (Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Elizabeth Banks) during a strained family game of charades.

Rudd stars as Ned Rochlin, an easygoing biodynamic fruit and vegetable farmer/vendor. In the opening scene, bearded, shaggy-haired, authentic, and naοve Ned looks past his reservations to sell $20 of sympathy marijuana to a venting uniformed police officer. The transaction lands Ned an eight-month jail sentence and establishes him as not the sharpest guy in New York. When he gets out, a few months early for good behavior and mere seconds later to us, Ned finds that his dirtily-dreadlocked hippie girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has moved onto a new guy (T.J. Miller) and refuses to hand over Ned's beloved golden retriever Willie Nelson to him, claiming ownership of the underloved dog.

Lacking money and a place to stay, Ned turns to his mother (Shirley Knight), who gladly puts him up briefly. Ned then looks to his three thirtysomething sisters, spending time living with each, until they pass him onto the next. In all of his short stays, Ned manages to quickly turn upside down the lives of his seemingly better adjusted siblings. For conservative wife/mother Liz (Emily Mortimer, sporting a spotty American accent), he uncovers infidelity in her douchey documentarian husband (Steve Coogan). Ned becomes the primary contributor and then single-handed undoer of a potentially breakthrough article for Vanity Fair reporter Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), who he tries to set up with her underemployed roommate (Adam Scott). Finally, Ned creates strain for not altogether homosexual artsy performer Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) and her nerdy, boyish lawyer girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones).

When you break it down, the film's conceit is pretty straightforward. Ned, the guileless ne'-er-do-well brother, is seen as a burden on his three more mature sisters, but in fact is far more happy and less stressed than they, with their relationship problems and other adult woes, are. Ned may be a tattletale, an idealist whose complete honesty gets him and his sisters in trouble more than once. But he's also a generous free-thinker who doesn't harbor a bad thought or utter an unkind word about anyone. When his family finally does push him over the edge, during the film's cathartic standout scene of a strained charades game, characters and viewers alike immediately realize the irony of the title and see the heroism within the destructive force it refers to.

While dreadlocked ex Janet (Kathryn Hahn) is adamant about not giving Willie Nelson back to Ned, her new boyfriend Billy (T.J. Miller) is more sympathetic. Ned (Paul Rudd) lends his driving services to Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) as she talks with an important lady.

The sincerity of that structure could easily be rendered trite or sappy, but no such charges can be made against the debut screenplay by, fittingly enough, the director's Vanity Fair-editing sister Evgenia Peretz and her husband, documentarian David Schisgall. Profanity flies freely as do eccentric details, but the script retains realism throughout in spite of the confines of its tidy design.
Invaluable to the film's success is Rudd's winning lead performance. There's no wink and nod to Ned's slacker style; Rudd knows funny as well as any A/B-list actor working today, and he doesn't overplay his hand, scoring most of the film's plentiful laughs with understatement and believable candor. It helps that he's surrounded with several of the funnier actors and actresses around. They sell material that could easily have fallen flat in the hands of lesser talents.

The fairly star-studded cast no doubt inspired The Weinstein Company to grant a wide release to what is decidedly an independent film (acquired at Sundance, no less). I've long wondered what would happen if slightly offbeat fare like this didn't take the usual path of limited distribution. And now I seem to have my answer, which is that it would appear to underperform compared to the rest of the industry while in fact generating a good deal of profit for the studio.

Despite a fifth place opening on one of the slowest weekends of the year, Our Idiot Brother actually ranks as one of the least disappointing releases in the Weinsteins' six trying years of self-distribution, its gross placing it in the top quintile of the company's output. Nonetheless, the studio and its home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment are eager to find the movie a larger audience. And thus, this week's DVD and Blu-ray releases throw out the initial one sheet's all-Rudd design to paint the star as just one part of an ensemble of four actors claiming pre-title billing.

Our Idiot Brother Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $39.99)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP $14.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Appearing in 1.78:1, Our Idiot Brother represents my first experience with a live-action Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray. I found the transfer good, but not quite great. It seemed a tad soft and less detailed than other studios' efforts. I suspect part of that may be due to the low-budget nature of the production, which finds lighting and ADR a bit lacking. Whatever the case may be, the presentation isn't as breathtaking as many new films. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is fine, presenting dialogue clearly without really exploring the sound field. Though a ubiquitous song was used to market it (Michael Franti and Spearhead's "Say Hey (I Love You)"), the film has a more obscure musical sensibility, opting for unfamiliar (and inexpensive) indie and folk tunes (including a few Willie Nelson tunes, appropriately enough) to complement onscreen action.

A-ha! Liz's husband Dylan (Steve Coogan) makes a front door appearance in this alternate bris ending. In the making-of featurette, director Jesse Peretz gives us a face to go along with his audio commentary. A still of River (Matthew Mindler) and video of Nat (Zooey Deschanel) briefly share the Blu-ray menu screen.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Our Idiot Brother gets a typically Weinsteinian supply of three bonus features.

First up is an audio commentary by director/executive producer/story co-writer Jesse Peretz. Some company would certainly be welcome and shouldn't have been hard to get, but Peretz fares okay on his own, talking through the end of the closing credits with few lulls. He shares his history with every major cast member and reveals bits that were improvised or tried in different ways. He also touches upon things learned in test screenings, getting acquired by The Weinstein Company at Sundance, reshoots, and music selections. It's an all right listen, but such an actor-driven movie deserves a more entertaining group track.

A section of deleted and extended scenes (8:56) includes a cut arc involving Ned lending money to someone who spotted his wad of cash on the subway, a jail scene, an additional Steve Coogan appearance, and a less than satisfying alternate ending set primarily at a family circumcision ceremony (revealing the Rochlins to be Jewish).

The standard but suitable "The Making of Our Idiot Brother" (14:36) gathers remarks from Peretz, his screenwriter sister, producers Peter Saraf and Anthony Bregman, and all principal cast members about the characters, the story, and their attraction to the project.

The disc opens with full trailers for two other Weinstein movies, Dirty Girl and Submarine, neither subsequently accessible by menu. Our Idiot Brother's own theatrical trailer is annoyingly absent altogether.

The menu displays gold-tinted character stills alongside full-color clips while the film's opening score plays.

Inexplicably equipped with BD-J, the disc illustrates Weinstein and Anchor Bay have room to improve in Blu-ray authoring: the disc doesn't support bookmarks, resuming, or instantly skipping all previews. Also, aside from the menu, the video supplements are presented in standard definition.

Nedrick Rochlin (Paul Rudd) shares a New York City bench with his best friend in the whole world, Willie Nelson (the golden retriever, not the country singer) in "Our Idiot Brother."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though it didn't do much to assert his star power, Our Idiot Brother does reinforce the talents of Paul Rudd and with more dramatic credibility than many of his recent mainstream films. This appealing redemption tale will be too crass for some and not broad enough for others, but everyone else should find it occupying a comfortable region of smart, thoughtful comedy. The Blu-ray is a fairly basic affair, sufficient but not exceptional both technically and supplementally. A viewing is recommended, especially for those who don't mind following the cast members into R-rated indie waters.

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Related Reviews:
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Paul Rudd: How Do You Know • I Love You, Man • Dinner for Schmucks • Knocked Up • Over Her Dead Body
City Island • Smart People • Step Brothers • happythankyoumoreplease • Win Win • Everybody's Fine
$5 a Day • Cyrus • The Kids Are All Right • The Big Lebowski • Away We Go • Jack Goes Boating • Adventureland

Our Idiot Brother Songs List (in order of use): Eric D. Johnson - "Two Roadrunners", Eric D. Johnson - "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree", Willie Nelson - "I've Got a Wonderful Future Behind Me", Coati Mundi - "Contigo y Nadie Mas", El May - "The Things You Lost", Paul Cantelon - "Arrow's Arabesque", Rhymes Monumental - "F.L.O.W. Feat Playdough", Fruit Bats - "Lightning Bug", Daniel May - "Margarita on the Rocks", Nathan Larson - "Mellotron Melody", Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - "Cool Yourself", Willie Nelson - "Midnight Rider", Generationals - "When They Fight, They Fight", Jacqueline Taieb - "Petite Fille Amour", Willie Nelson - "Ol' Blue", Jeremy Lister & Mindy Smith - "Taking You With Me", Eric D. Johnson & Nathan Larson featurinG Nina Persson - "Cowboys and Hobos", Carole King - "Beautiful"

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Reviewed December 1, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 The Weinstein Company, Big Beach, Likely Story, Yuk Films,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.