'Our Idiot Brother' (R)

The titular hero of the drab comedy Our Idiot Brother is the well-meaning lunkhead Ned (Paul Rudd), a hopeless optimist who wants to believe nothing other than good about people (he could pass for Forrest Gump’s younger brother). That innocence gets Ned arrested in the opening scene, in which he sells some pot to a uniformed police officer who asks him if he’s holding. Ned feels outraged and violated by the cop’s betrayal, but he gets over it almost immediately.

There is little that can ruffle Ned and his shaggy-dog, easygoing demeanor for long: When he gets out of jail and finds out his girlfriend has dumped him and wants him out of the house they share, he moves in with his mother, then couch-surfs his way through the lives of his three sisters, each of whom is going through a crisis: Liz (Emily Mortimer), whose filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan) is cheating on her; Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a Vanity Fair writer trying to make a name for herself in the industry; and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), who lives with her devoted girlfriend (Rashida Jones) but winds up pregnant after a casual night of sex with an artist (Hugh Dancy).

Our Idiot Brother, which was directed by Jesse Peretz (The Ex) and written by his sister Evgenia and her husband David Schisgall, attracted an ensemble cast far better than this puny material deserved. The talented actors are game, but they are done in by the shallow nature of their characters, none of whom behaves in a manner remotely resembling real life (they don’t really seem to be related, either). Even the usually likable Rudd can’t do much with the enigmatic Ned, who often behaves exactly in the idiotic manner he’s accused of. The film itself doesn’t seem to know what to make of Ned: Are we supposed to find his stupidity endearing?

In the last 30 minutes, the filmmakers opt for the sentimental route, turning Ned into a teacher of Life Lessons and Important Truths, all of which he will convey to his sisters despite their constantly complaining. Yep, the tail end of the summer movie season is definitely here. Hurry, fall, hurry.

Cast: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Steve Coogan, Hugh Dancy, Rashida Jones, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley Knight.

Director: Jesse Peretz.

Screenwriters: Evgenia Peretz, David Schisgall.

Producers: Anthony Bregman, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf.

A Weinstein Co. release. Running time: 95 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, nudity, drug use, adult themes. Opens Friday Aug. 26 at area theaters.


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