Hippies of Ann Arbor, unite! There’s finally a comedy with a bohemian lead whose ethos we can all relate to … sort of.

Our Idiot Brother

At Quality 16 and Rave
The Weinstein Company

In “Our Idiot Brother,” actor Paul Rudd (“Anchorman”) plays Ned, a lovable longhair whose unflinching honesty always seems to get him into serious trouble. Whether it’s selling pot to uniformed cops or admitting to his parole officer that he’s smoked it, he’s always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

After heading home from a short prison stint, Ned finds that his dreadlocked girlfriend has taken up with another man and has no intention of letting Ned stay. Worse yet, she won’t even let him claim his canine companion, the aptly named Willie Nelson. After a short fight in which the dog’s full name is repeated no less than a dozen times in a desperate stab at comedy (just call him Willie after the fifth time, for Christ’s sake), Ned accepts defeat. He spends the rest of the film crashing in different family members’ beds, uprooting their lives one by one with his tactless manners.

The film’s biggest problem is its failure to properly define Ned as a character. When we first meet him, we instantly like him and suspect that maybe he’s a genuinely nice guy — self-aware and sensitive to the shortcomings of his peers — rather than the hapless, gullible “idiot” the title implies. In fact, he even expresses this attitude in a conversation with a love interest, telling his crush that though he knows people view him as inept and childish, he’s committed to “giving people the benefit of the doubt” and sincerely believes they’ll return the favor.

The first half of the film stays true to its mission, but after the midpoint it’s clear the writer is all too willing to abandon Ned’s strong ethics and initial lucidity for the sake of cheap humor. Ned blurts out private family details, blunders his way through countless conversations and even mistakes his parole officer for a court-appointed therapist. The ending ties up all the loose ends with a big red bow, but by that time it’s hard not to resent our clumsy hero’s inconsistency, especially when one of his sisters remarks, “No one can love people so unconditionally.” Is it better to be loved in spite of your evident flaws, or because your lover is too naïve and clueless to see them?

Rudd’s on-point acting, a few hilarious supporting characters and a healthy handful of fresh jokes make “Our Idiot Brother” worthwhile, but writing newcomers Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall would do best to avoid philosophizing unless they’re going to tailor his humor around the limitations of the statement they’re trying to make. To do otherwise is either lazy or immoral, and in both cases it empties Ned’s kindness of any true value.

Expect to laugh, and laugh loudly at that. But don’t be surprised if you leave feeling like you’ve only seen half a movie. The first part may be on par with Rudd’s roles in “I Love You, Man,” and “Role Models,” but the end feels more like “Dinner for Schmucks.”

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