Thursday, September 01, 2011

'Our Idiot Brother' - Charming & Sweet; 'Columbiana' - Ugh

‘Our Idiot Brother’ feels like an art house, independent film, but filled with several big name stars it has a very mainstream quality to it and that is what ultimately makes it a winner. It is the quality of the acting and the stars that bring what would be a run of the mill, almost sitcom like film to life.

Paul Rudd (‘Anchorman’) is Ned, a naïve and trusting hippie organic farmer who is still, at an age where he should know, trying to figure out where he wants to go in life. He is the polar opposite of his three sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Liz (Emily Mortimer) and Natalie (the always cute as a pixie Zooey Deschanel); three strong woman, deep into the pulse of their lives. After doing a short time in prison (for selling pot to a UNIFORMED police officer), Ned comes home to discover that his girlfriend (Kathryn Han) has moved on with another guy (T.J. Miller) and has taken custody of his loving dog ‘Willy Nelson’; with nowhere to go, Ned turns to his family.

Ned’s sisters take turns housing their lovable and too trusting brother. During his stays, he inevitably ruins their lives; but as they are forced to clean up the mess he created, Ned’s honesty and trusting nature turns out to be the thing that sets their own lives in order. As it turns out, Ned isn’t really an ‘idiot’ (although he really does some very stupid things); he is just too trusting in the human spirit, and to the movie’s credit it never really treats Ned as an ‘idiot’. Rudd is perfectly cast in the role of Ned; he fills Ned with childlike innocence and wonder; his trust is that of naiveté and not stupidity. Rudd is a likable and charming goofball; the kind of friend you wish you had in your life. I can think of no better role for him and the very nature he seems to exude! Equally lovable is the supporting cast, although the sub-plots are very generic; Liz discovers her husband (Steve Coogan) is cheating on her, Natalie risks her relationship with her girlfriend (the very funny Rashida Jones of ‘Parks and Recreation’) by sleeping with a man and Miranda is so busy launching her career that she fails to notice the love of her life (Adam Scott) standing before her.

While Rudd delivers a solid and funny performance, the movie is more entertaining because of the supporting cast. Despite the rather pedestrian subplots – they really make you care about them and their story’s outcome. ‘Our Idiot Brother’ isn’t as funny as it could be, but it is a charming and very sweet story about the family dynamic. A 2 ½ star effort worth the viewing!

On the other hand ‘Columbiana’ is hardly worth the effort it takes to get down the aisle and into your seat at the local multiplex! Save yourself the $10.00 and watch the trailer as that is by far the best 2 or 3 minutes of the film. It may be worth the $1.00 at your local Redbox, IF you have nothing better to do that day that is. Zoe Saldana is Cataleya, a young woman bent on revenging the death of her parents at the hands of a Columbian drug lord (I still haven’t figured out why the title is ‘Columbiana’). She escapes Columbia, at a very tender age of 11 or so, getting herself to Chicago where an Uncle is a local drug lord. He teaches her how to be an assassin, and, she uses those skills to eventually avenger her parents.

Written and produced by Luc Besson (The Professional) I had high hopes for what turns out to be a rehash of ‘The Professional’ and ‘La Femme Nikita’ – even going as far as to mimic the same camera shots! Leave this 1 star mess to a Redbox rental!

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