Sundance: 'My Idiot Brother' is no dummy; Kevin Smith's 'Red State' is drenched in blood

Idiot-Brother-Paul-RuddPaul Rudd rocks a biblical hairdo and a beatific grin in Jesse Peretz’s deft, big-hearted comedy My Idiot Brother. And the hippie-with-an-expired-sell-by-date look suits him well. A reigning prince of playing guys whose pleasant, clean-cut features mask pockmarks of nuttiness, Rudd stars as Ned, a go-with-the-flow guy who’s so ready to see the good in everyone — and/or such a doofus — that, just for instance, he generously sells pot to a cop in uniform. A short prison stint follows, after which, dumped by his girlfriend, Ned and his backpack are dependent on the kindness and guest bedding of his three sisters: The ruthlessly ambitious magazine-journalist one (Elizabeth Banks); the neurotic married-Mommy one (Emily Mortimer); and the sexually promiscuous lesbian one (Zooey Deschanel).  Wherever Ned shows up, bearing gifts of trust and sunniness, chaos follows, as his honesty interferes with the routines of family members used to accommodating lies.

That’s a sophisticated and even pretty deep premise for a family comedy, and screenwriters Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall sharpen the contours further with the zingy wit of their script; the dialog is specifically rather than generically funny, filled with tiny moments that teeter on the border of exasperation and hilarity. As a result, the cool cast have a ball digging into their characters’ blind spots and shortcomings, none more gleefully than Rudd, who turns out to be a virtuoso when it comes to pothead pauses. Dudes, like whoa, I laughed and beamed. Now that The Weinstein Company has acquired My Idiot Brother, soon you’ll be able to do the same.

Red-State-John-GoodmanJust, whatever you do, don’t mention the word “acquisition” in front of Kevin Smith. The voluble filmmaker took the microphone after the world premiere of his new movie Red State and indulged in a grandiose, half-hour rant/stand-up act/PR campaign/fugue state about the economics of film distribution that left his audience almost as slack-jawed with huh? as we were during some of the most outrageous, most violent, and most dirty-mouth scenes in his defiantly DIY comic-book style anti-religion horror movie. Here, ta-da!, is Smith’s most up-to-date declaration of war against religious fundamentalists and government law enforcement and squares who might tire of hearing teenaged boys talk raunch and drop the F-bomb approximately 2 million times in the course of a 95-minute feature.

The real draw of Red State is unquestionably the bravura performance of Michael Parks — stalwart of Kill Bill and Twin Peaks — as a dangerously persuasive crackpot pastor who preaches fire and brimstone sermons in a sing-song-y, deep drawl, assailing the “abomination” of homosexuality. The fictional spiritual leader is not-so-secretly based on Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps, leader of a minuscule Kansas congregation notorious for picketing funerals and carrying signs with heinous messages of gay hatred. And after first introducing three horny teenage characters whose planned night of fantasy nasty with a willing lady found via Internet search turns terribly wrong, the man who made Dogma gets down to his real church business: Establishing a crazy-ass congregation of warped believers under the sway of a religious monster, then going on a violent rampage of death and destruction. Melissa Leo does it up as one of her church’s truest believers. John Goodman similarly puts his all into his role as a Federal agent called in to handle the situation after the killing and mayhem has begun — at which point the filmmaker expands his list of the damned by slamming the entire local and federal law enforcement establishment.

Mostly, Smith digs the horror, the horror!, as guns blaze and bloody bodies explode in the name of God. Me, I spent any down time between frantic, exponentially exploitative shoot-outs contemplating the long and mysterious path by which the exciting director who made Clerks 17 years ago is now a successful middle-aged husband, father, and businessman who nevertheless describes himself on stage to his audience as a “fat, masturbating stoner” and makes movies pitched to others of his tribe.

More Sundance 2011:
Kevin Smith says he’ll put out ‘Red State’ himself
Chaotic Q&A session follows debut of ‘My Idiot Brother’

Sundance: 28 exclusive portraits
Morgan Spurlock talks about selling out for all the right reasons

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Joe

    Is this how Liberals see Conservatives?…

    • Huh?

      It’s not a political film…despite the name. Red is for blood…stoner logic, yes. But we are talking Kevin Smith here.

    • LOL

      We see conservatives as much worse than this.

      • Jack Lean II

        Exactly, stoners think conservatives are dumber than a box of rocks, but they love them because they make cookies.

      • Mike

        And great apple pie.

    • Alicia

      I think this is how Kevin Smith sees religious fundamentalists. There may be some insight in all the promised excess, so I might see this movie.

  • the Vicster

    Is this how Conservatives think Liberals see Conservative?…

  • Khoff

    I am really looking forward to both these movies for extremely different reasons.

  • Stacie

    I think Kevin Smith is to the point where he’ll do anything to get his films promoted.

  • Jamison

    If you follow Kevin Smith at all, he’s spent a great deal of time explaining where this film is coming from. It’s his own version of the horror films of the 70s that used satan worship as a plot device, except in his version the Satan worshipers are angel worshipers instead. He used Phelps as a character-basis and then basically follwed a formula. It’s less about liberal and conservative than it is about religious fanaticism versus ordinary people, which Smith knows a lot about considering the number of death threats he got for making Dogma.

  • James

    Paul Rudd looking like Jesus? I’m there. And no I’m not joking. I. Am. There.

    • Shaolin Shadowboxer

      You know that Jesus didn’t actually look like that, right?

      • Wu-Tang Masturbator

        I know… they totally didn’t have sunglasses or backpacks 2000 years ago.

  • bob g

    So cant wait for Red State. Looks amazing.

  • Ethan

    Well reviewed, Lisa – a very insightful observation of Smith indeed. Good movie? Not sure, it sounds like it is what it is, which sort of sounds like what you’re saying.

  • Red State is horrible

    Film was undercooked and slapped together. Not really a horror film, more of a Waco style thriller with LONG boring stretches of sermons that, I’m guessing, are there to fill time so the movie would be feature-lengthed. It’s really bad, folks. It reminded me of an Andy Kaufman skit where he reads a book to his audience to see how long it will take before they’d leave in

  • Snertly

    So, is “deeply meaningful to the director” and “entertaining for the movie going population” the same thing?

  • Simone

    I think a lot of people are missing the point. FANS of Kevin Smith will enjoy this film. Point being FANS … why spend miliions of dollars promoting this movie when word of mouth (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is just as good if not better. I do not trust critic reviews any more. Hell look at the Oscars the past few years…really has there been a film, please DO NOT SAY AVATAR, but a really good film that has great directing, acting, and a storyline worth sitting in a chair for an average of 2 hours to watch. I will watch this film and I know I will enjoy it because I am a fan of Kevin Smiths.

  • Red State is a failure… and so is Kevin Smith

    No wonder the media is pissed. He lied to everyone… he planned to sell this. And when no one would buy this he pulls this stunt. And then he lies and says he was planning to self-distribute this all along. However, the truth is he never did plan this ALL ALONG…

    Read this recent interview with the film’s producer in “Variety”…
    “Hiring longtime specialty exec Dinerstein (whose film marketing consultancy also arranges self-distribution deals), bringing aboard Cinetic Media (which arranged service deals for sale titles like last year’s Banksy doc “Exit Through the Gift Shop”) with co-seller WME, and slapping the word “March” at the end of the teaser trailer has led many to suspect Smith has a self-distribution backup plan should an attractive offer fail to materialize. But is self-distribution or a service deal even an option they’re considering? “No,” says Gordon. “We want to have someone who loves the movie, understands it, knows how to handle it and get the most out of it.”

  • Andy Halmay

    Gosh, I never heard of Kevin Smith before today. Looks like my luck ran out.

  • anon Ymus

    —The 70’s Show goes on!

    MEANWHILE we’re literally being bought out and perhaps just years fromovvupation by history’s –MOST– awesomely genocidal regime across
    the Pacific.

    —————-Keep goin’ kids!

  • tresorparis

    Great article. I can¡¯t wait to hear more about your research tool. If it is as good as your other products, then you will have another winner. Your article pretty much summed up what I have been seeing too. Great to see some hard data.

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