It turns out that staying stupid and high is, in fact, a great way to go through life. Of course, if you've seen enough stoner movies then you kind of already know that. The high people always win in the end. Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott find the car. Method and Red turn Harvard upside-down with their superweed. The Dude abides.
But Our Idiot Brother drops this groovy, amiable, almost-knowledge into one of American Independent Cinema's standard-issue, no-longer-any-fun-at-all templates: the one where a wacky outsider comes along and teaches everybody around him how to truly live life to its fullest.
Here goes: Paul Rudd is the bearded, long-haired, charmingly dumb brother coming home from a short stint in prison for happily selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer. When his ex-girlfriend takes up with a man who is essentially his blond duplicate, commandeering custody of the former couple's beloved dog "Willie Nelson" in the process, Rudd crashes at his drunken mother's house at first.
From there he moves on to -- and in with -- his untalented stand-up comic sister (Zooey Deschanel) who's cheating on her lawyer girlfriend (Rashida Jones, looking more oversized-glasses-wearing hipster than soft-butch lesbian), his high-strung, too P.C. other sister (Emily Mortimer), whose husband (Steve Coogan) is cheating on her and, finally with his careerist Vanity Fair-employed sister (Elizabeth Banks, playing Parker Posey), a woman with no journalistic ethics.
Into each life, then, a little bongwater falls in the form of Rudd, who's too good, too pure, too naive, too willing to keep it innocently real and too banal a plot-moving character for all the cynical, unhappy people around him. He's a truth tornado and, just like in this year's Hesher, his actions and everyone else's reactions create a path of insufferably trite destruction/resurrection.
I bring up Hesher for a reason. Well, two reasons. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Piper Laurie, whose performances are too good for the movie they were in. If someone says, "Should I see Hesher?" I always have to spend way too much time explaining why it sucks but why they might want to watch it anyway.
And this film will join Hesher in that club. It's got more than a handful of those kinds of worthwhile performances: goofy Deschanel, lovable Rudd, tightly-wound Mortimer, creepy Coogan and sarcastic Banks, all of them funny, all of them people you won't mind spending time with. It's just too bad it's all in the service of a story that feels like it was tossed off by people who were actually high and half-asleep. No dude should have to abide that.