A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this surprisingly wise comedy, while hilarious (though not in a showy, Hangover-esque way), addresses some mature themes, including infidelity, incarceration, and job boundaries. Swearing abounds (including plenty of "f--k"s), and some scenes are quite sexually charged, including one that shows a character at the beginning of a threesome. Most of the nudity is somewhat indirect -- viewable from the side or the back, in brief slices -- but plenty of action is implied, and there's some frank talk as well. A couple of scenes involve marijuana.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) get the chance to hang out with their brother, Ned (Paul Rudd), after he’s released from prison. A biodynamic farmer with nary a mean bone in his body, Ned landed in jail after a cop practically begged him to "help a brother out" and sell him some weed. (Ned wanted to give it to him for free, but the cop insisted on paying, hence the entrapment.) Ned's girlfriend is now an ex, and since she threw him out, he must bide his time with family and perform odd jobs until he’s back on his feet. The girls think Ned's the one who needs their help, but, as they all soon discover, they're the ones whose lives need makeovers. Liz's filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan) is preoccupied, Miranda is ready to sell her soul just to land a big story at Vanity Fair; and Natalie is distracted from her lesbian lover (Rashida Jones) by a New Age artist (Hugh Dancy).
Is it any good?
OUR IDIOT BROTHER is funny. It's also shockingly wise. And both of these wonderful attributes don't hit you until the end, when you're overwhelmed by the film's cumulative moments of genius and hilarity. This isn't your average stoner comedy, and it's far from your average comedy of manners. To a person, it gets its characterizations right, from Ned's uber-PC ex-girlfriend with hostility issues to Miranda's type-A New York journalist to Ned himself. He’s a walking, talking personification of the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy," a giant peace sign combined with the iconic smiley face.
What makes the movie most successful, apart from the uniformly strong performances from the entire cast, is its depth. It would be so easy to dismiss Ned as a dope, except that the way he approaches the world makes sense. Far from idiocy, it may just be the recipe for sanity. The film's pacing sometimes nearly grinds to a halt, but that's a rare moment. Otherwise, it's pretty brilliant.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Ned and his sisters. How would you characterize their relationships? Do they seem authentic and believable? How do they compare to family members you've seen in other movies?
What are the movie's messages about family and relationships?
Parents, talk to your kids about how Ned approaches life. Does it work for him? Why?
- In theaters: August 26, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2011
- Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, Zooey Deschanel
- Director: Jesse Peretz
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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