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08/30/2011

Life is like a box of just being there

I never knew Forrest Gump had a country cousin until I saw "Our Idiot Brother."

Actually, Paul Rudd's Ned isn't really a simpleton or savant, as Tom Hank's Forrest was.  Ned is just a seriously laid-back guy who chooses to go through life telling the unfiltered truth, trusting strangers and constantly getting chastised -- or jailed -- for his simple approach to life.

In other words, it looks like Ned, who lands in the slammer in this raunchy comedy's opening sequence for being talked into selling pot to a uniformed policeman, has little or no chance in the cold, hard, "me-first" real world.

Life isn't like a box of chocolates for Ned, it's a constant swift kick below the belt.

But Ned, superbly downplayed by Paul Rudd behind a bushel of hair and beard, only wants to reunite with his dog, Willie Nelson.  Yes, a dog named Willie Nelson.  

Directed by Jesse Peretz, who guided Rudd through "The Ex" and "The Chateau," "Our Idiot Brother" is the thinking person's raunchy, low-brow comic romp.  Ned sells dope and acts like one at times.  But he also wanders into domestic dilemmas involving his three sisters (played with spunk by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer).

Like the late Peter Seller's Chance Gardner in the now-vintage comic-drama gem "Being There" (1979), Ned sometimes soothes troubled waters by simply showing up and shutting up.

Rudd, who has the uncanny ability to look like a straight man even when his character is way off into Goofville, turns in a subtle, understated performance that's a refreshing diversion from what we usually see in today's over-the-top raunchy comedies.

"Our Idiot Brother" turns out to be a well-acted exercise in cinematic ensemble folly that makes for an enjoyable evening of frenzied vs. cool reacting movie-going.

Screenwriters Evgenia Peretz, a "Vanity Fair" contributing editor who's the director's sister, and her husband David Schisgall, write themselves into a corner bubbling over with over silliness a couple of times, however.

Why else would they dub the Golden Retriever Ned is constantly trying to retrieve "Willie Nelson"?

You'll just have to wait until the final scene to answer that one.

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