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Stuck in a Rudd

Likeable actor continues his "nice guy" streak in Our Idiot Brother

Beware the title of actor Paul Rudds new film, Our Idiot Brother.

His character, Ned, is not the village savant who wanders around benevolently bestowing nuggets of wisdom on the gainfully employed. There is nary a life is like a box of chocolates line to be found in the films script. Neds education of the people around him is unconscious, passive: hes just a nice guy.

Rudd has been honing his nice guy persona for years on film, perfecting the type of character that women just want to wrap up and take home, and guysat least, the type who drive hybridswouldnt mind carpooling with.

Usually, though, Rudd plays the straight man, the buttoned-up salaryman who has something to learn from the morons around him, whether its opposite the bizarro Steve Carell character in Dinner For Schmucks, the more pragmatic half of an energy-drink sales duo (with Seann William Scott) in Role Models, or the uptight groom-to-be who man-dates Jason Segel in I Love You, Man.

His characters lean toward men low on machismo but high on haplessness. Rudds character gets framed for embezzlement by his own father (played by Jack Nicholson) in How Do You Know. His talks big but has spent years pining for his ex in The 40-Year-Old Virgin; and hes no match for feisty wife Leslie Mann in Knocked Up. You know: the type of male who people tend to describe as a fellow rather than a guy.

Rudd has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with producer/director Judd Apatow (Anchorman, Knocked Up, Year One, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, among others). Apatow has said of Rudd: Its like a good dance partner: you know their moves. Plus youre spending months on set, so why not be around people who crack you up? The two are currently filming This Is Forty, a Knocked Up spinoff, which will re-team Rudd and Apatows wife Leslie Mann.

Elizabeth Banks is another frequent partner, ever since the two swapped spit in the titillatingly titled Wet Hot American Summer. This is their fifth film together. In Our Idiot Brother, Banks plays one of three sisters whose lives are thrown into a tizzy after Ned moves in.

After selling pot to a uniformed police officer and being booted off the biodynamic farm he shares with his girlfriend, Ned house-hops from sibling to sibling. Theres Miranda (Banks), a career-driven Vanity Fair writer; Liz (Emily Mortimer), the uptight mom of two kids (named River and Echo) and her snooty documentary filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan); and free spirit Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), ardently trying to bed-hop her way to happiness.

The script was co-written by real-life Vanity Fair editor Evgenia Peretz and her real-life documentary filmmaker husband Jesse Peretz, who also directed.

Neds like a child, in that theres no room for white lies, sarcasm or insincerity: he just doesnt get it. Neds frankness ultimately leads the women to take stock of their busy, neurotic lives and realize that Ned isnt the moron they thought he was.

Its a long way from gigs as Phoebes boyfriend in Friends, as Alicia Silverstones hot older step-brother in Clueless, or as the gay object of Jennifer Anistons affection in The Object of My Affection. Despite his protestations in interviews that he hasnt taken the active approach to making himself a star, Rudds starring turn in Our Idiot Brother is evidence of the actors bankable appeal.