By: Jenna Zine (Two Beers) –
Loveable loser Ned (Paul Rudd) unintentionally wreaks havoc on his three sisters’ lives as he bounces from each household after being released from jail on a trumped up drug charge.
There is no doubt this is the casting coup of a lifetime. The film includes the aforementioned Paul Rudd as the title character and he is definitely the reason to plunk your dollars down at the box office. His three sisters include frazzled housewife Liz (Emily Mortimer), uptight Vanity Fair columnist Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and bisexual standup comedian Natalie (Zooey Deschanel).
The already stellar lineup is rounded out by Steve Coogan (as Dylan, Liz’s smarmy/snobby husband), Kathryn Hahn (in a standout role as Janet, Ned’s nutty hippie ex-girlfriend), Rashida Jones (as Cindy, nerdy girlfriend to ethereal Natalie), Adam Scott (as Jeremy, Miranda’s neighbor and love interest) and T.J. Miller (as Billy, Janet’s current beau who seems to prefer hanging with Ned). And don’t forget Willie Nelson – Ned’s beloved dog, that is. As someone who honestly has a brother-in-law named Johnny Cash, I appreciated the confusion and hilarity of this running shtick.
Ned is an honest, kindhearted do-gooder who’s written off by most of society because of his earnest and sincere nature. Not that it bothers him. Ned rolls on and is fine with the fact that people either get it or they don’t. Unfortunately those that don’t include his three sisters – whose lives change drastically as he bunks with each one of them over the course of the film. Each sister, and their respective partners, play their roles to the hilt – almost to the point of being a bit cartoonish. But all is (mostly) forgiven, due to the lovability of the actors – including newcomer child thespian Matthew Mindler (as River, lavished son of Liz and Dylan).
So, with a cast this fantastic, what’s wrong? Well, the film is adorable – even laugh out loud funny in many parts – but the overall message is so heavy-handed that I felt like I was being whacked over the head with a sledgehammer. Ned’s dog actually plays a pivotal role in the plot and, by the end of the flick, it’s quite clear that Ned is metaphorically a dog, in his ability to give unconditional love.
I was disappointed to learn (via Entertainment Weekly) that a different ending to the movie actually premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. EW says:[I do wish the movie’s ending weren’t so squishy. It’s been changed from the finale that Sundance audiences saw earlier this year and now reeks of focus-group testing — well, either that or a lack of confidence in the director’s comedy rhythms on the part of The Weinstein Company (which bought the movie in Park City for big money). What was once specific and sparkling is now more blandly glossy and sweet.]
I’m going to keep an eye out for the extras when the DVD is released. It would be interesting to see the original vision.
All in all, a really fun film blessed with an outstanding cast. I only wish they’d given Ned a little more bite. Pun intended.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Ned goes to visit his hilariously deadpanned parole officer, Omar (Sterling K. Brown).
Take a Drink: every time Ned’s mom Ilene (Shirley Knight) is shown with a sloshing glass of white wine.
Take a Drink: whenever Ned does something goofy and endearing.
Take a shot: whenever you hear a Willie Nelson song in the background. The real Willie, not the barking dog!
Absolutely stick around for the hilarious outtakes, bloopers and improv scenes. The extras will easily carry you to the end of the credits, when Paul asks his pint-sized costar if he’s seen Anchorman.