The man-child: a staple character for modern comedy and notoriously known for being played one-note. They get the laugh they get out.
But turning the lovable goofball or zoned-out knucklehead into something more is no easy task—which makes Paul Rudd's work in Our Idiot Brother that much more impressive. Rudd's Earth-friendly farmer Ned (the closest thing to a new Lebowski we've seen since the original) finds himself down on his luck after being entrapped by a police officer looking for pot. After a stint in jail he abandons his rural hippie commune for the big city to take shelter with his three sisters. Unfortunately for Ned his three siblings Liz (Emily Mortimer) Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) are as equally displaced and confused from the ebb and flow of life—albeit with severely different perspectives of the world.
Liz struggles to put her kid in private school and keep her marriage to documentary filmmaker/scumbag Dylan (Steve Coogan) intact. Miranda claws her way to the top of Vanity Fair's editorial staff and shuns her flirtatious neighbor (Adam Scott). Natalie stresses over her commitment issues with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) leaving little time or patience for Ned's bumbling antics. Sound like a lot of plot? While the manic lives of Ned's sisters click symbolically with his journey to get back on his feet it makes for one sporadic narrative.
Like a series of vignettes Our Idiot Brother never gels but when director Jesse Peretz finds a moment of unadulterated Nedisms to throw up on screen the movie hits big. Whether it's Ned teaching his nephew how to fight accidentally romancing his sister's interview subject or infiltrating his ex-girlfriend's house to steal his dog Willie Nelson the movie relies heavily on Ned's antics and its smart to do so. But thin throughlines for its supporting don't hold a candle to Rudd doing his thing.
And its a testament to Rudd's versatility—the man has done everything from Shakespeare and raunchy Judd Apatow comedies after all—that makes the movie watchable. Rudd gives dimensionality to his nincompoop character allowing darker emotions to creep in when necessary. There's a point in the film when Ned gives up fighting for his type-A sisters' affection and it's some of the best material Rudd's ever delivered. But like one of Ned's lit joints Our Idiot Brother can quickly fizzle out leading to plodding plot twists and sentimental conclusions. Mortimer Banks and Deschanel are great actresses—here they drift through their scenes and come out in the end changed. Because they have to.
Our Idiot Brother tries to take the Apatow model to the indie scene and comes through with so-so results. Only Rudd's able to find something to latch on to to build upon to warm up to. In an unexpected twist it's the man-child who seems the most grown up.
The only way to adequately convey how insanely stupid Kangaroo Jack is is to simply describe it. Hairdresser Charlie Carbone (Jerry O'Connell) knows two things: his stepfather Sal (Christopher Walken) is a mob boss and his best friend Louis (Anthony Anderson) will find a way to get them both in a lot of trouble. True to form Louis involves Charlie in a scam that ends up exposing one of Sal's operations to the police. D'oh! Instead of immediately whacking the two dunderheads (which would have been a blessing) Sal sends them on an errand to deliver $50K to a guy in Australia. As Charlie and Louis are driving through the Outback they accidentally hit a kangaroo and thinking it's dead Louis puts his lucky red jacket on the animal to take some souvenir photos. Here's where it gets really interesting. Much to the surprise of our intrepid Outbackers Mr. Kangaroo Jack isn't dead just stunned. He wakes up kicks the crap out of Charlie and takes off into the wild--with the jacket and the packet of money inside of it. Double d'oh! How ever will they get the money back and save their hides from the menacing mob guys? It's a mystery but with the help of some colorful Australian denizens including a pilot (Bill Hunter) and a beautiful wildlife conservationist (Estella Warren) maybe they can retrieve the cash and make it out of the Outback alive. One can only hope.
It would be great to say there's a hysterical new comedic duo on the block but it wouldn't be true. O'Connell and Anderson aren't going to make the cut. Individually the two have their specialties--O'Connell is known for playing the cute likable guy in films such as Jerry Maguire while Anderson has played the affable big guy in films like Barbershop. But together the chemistry simply doesn't work. First of all it's very hard to understand why Charlie would maintain this friendship in the first place when Louis does everything he can to ruin Charlie's life. It's very tiresome to watch actually. Let's see how Louis is going to screw up the next situation. Ha ha. Warren (Driven) does nothing much other than look pretty while mob guys Frankie the Vermin (Michael Shannon) and Mr. Smith (Marton Csokas) grimace and snarl as best they can. Walken is obviously doing a walk-on for the money. It's just peculiar the choices this eccentric actor makes appearing in Kangaroo Jack and last year's abysmal The Country Bears but then turning around and giving an Oscar-worthy performance in Catch Me If You Can. Fascinating man.
If there is anything redeeming about Kangaroo Jack aside from camel-fart jokes and breakdancing kangaroos it's that it makes the Australian Outback look good. Shot mostly on location director David McNally (Coyote Ugly) has fun showing off the vast landscape and lush flora and fauna. And of course the kangaroo steals the show. He runs around eating candy out of Louis's jacket pockets kicking people in the chest and in one dream sequence rappin' and breakdancin'. Listen anything is better than watching the actors muddle through the awful premise. You spend most of the time fidgeting looking at your watch and wondering when the kangaroo is coming back. Unfortunately he doesn't show up nearly as often as you would like.