Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another Sundance report for ya’. Don’t worry, it’s not another review of a depressingly sad documentary, I swear.
No, My Idiot Brother will be a film you see released to 1200+ theaters whenever they get picked up. And they will get picked up. The cast is a comedy dream team. Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, Steve Coogan and Emily Mortimer are the known names, but there are a ton of recognizable faces throughout.
It has the cast, but more importantly it has the right tone. Imagine Chauncey Gardiner with a dash of Tommy Chong and you have Paul Rudd’s Ned. Yeah, he’s kind of a man-child, but not in the traditional immature Judd Apatow way. He’s a free spirit, with a child’s innocence and optimistic outlook. He doesn’t know how to be dishonest or mean. In short he’s kind of the dream friend, always laid back, always cool, always there with a smile.
Writers Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall and Director Jesse Peretz are very smart people. They populate this movie with people you’d want to hang out with. Rudd is awesome and his extended family are all very interesting, just flawed enough to make them feel real.
After being busted for selling pot to a cop (a uniformed cop, no less… told you the dude was trusting beyond rationality) Rudd goes through a nasty separation and ends up homeless and dogless. His dog, Willie Nelson (not played by Willie Nelson), is kept by his bitchy hippie ex and Rudd’s left with nothing.
The situation explodes when Rudd shows up at his family home and is essentially passed around from sister to sister, each one comfortable in their lives, and acts as a bit of a reset button for them all. Through him just being him, Rudd shines a light on the dishonesty they all live with and the fact that he can not keep his mouth shut means all dirty laundry is eventually aired.
Going into the movie I knew there was a certain level of guarantee with just Rudd in the lead. The dude’s charming enough to shoulder even the most bulky mess of a movie (see How Do You Know). The real surprise was just how heartfelt the whole thing came off. It is one of those rare movies, like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, that is hilariously funny, but is also incredibly emotional.
It’s also a good movie for movie lovers. They don’t make spoof-like homages, but you’ll recognize a few things if you love you some movies. I mentioned Being There already, but my favorite tip of the hat was how they recreated the Manhattan poster. I won’t spoil it for you, but I had a good laugh.
I know people love to bitch about Sundance featuring these big star studded movies, but films like My Idiot Brother, which was filmed without a distribution deal, depend on festivals like Sundance to actually stand a chance. There’s no way any studio would greenlight this movie, but I guarantee you there’ll be a bidding war over the finished product. There’s an unconventional love interest for Rudd that has one of the best “chase her down in the street” moments in a movie ever, there’s more drama than usual for a comedy and more comedy than usual for a drama, there’s no action sequence (unless you count a recreation of a Clouseau/Kato fight).
This festival is important because it forces buyers to be in the same room as a paying audience (remember, these tickets are $15 a pop or more if you count ticket package prices) and that’s the reason you always see a glut of comedies and horror movies bought out of festivals. Those rooms are essentially a preview to a buyer that a film works and there’s no better way to convince a money guy that he’ll get his investment back than putting him right in the middle of a reactive crowd.
That’s a double edged sword as well. A horror movie played opening night, filled with buyers and it was terrible. There was some polite applause, but also some hissing as the movie ended (I think that’s a Sundance thing, I never hear hissing in bad movies anywhere else, but it happens a lot here). You haven’t seen a bidding war erupt over Silent House, have you?
So, let me climb down off my soap box and finish off this review by saying that My Idiot Brother is a great film that isn’t afraid to be a little low brow with the humor and a little high brow with the drama. Oh, and you get gratuitous Steve Coogan nudity. That has to be worth an extra half star at least, right?
If you want an up to the minute account of what I’m seeing and my immediate verdict on Sundance flicks as I see them be sure to follow me on Twitter!