Have you ever injured yourself playing Checkers? Or accidentally sold a relative? Are you the guy who goes to clean out the fridge and winds up burning the house down? There’s a certain type of person who just can’t get anything right. The new comedy, Our Idiot Brother tells the story of one such dope and the people whose lives he’s gently ruining. But the moron gene runs the gamut from sweet & goofy (John Candy in most of his films) to eyesore of the Western world (Lindsay Lohan in all of her life). Fingers crossed you are the former. If that’s the case there is a lot of filmic evidence that you’ll fumble your way into great success. To that end, I hope the following five beloved nitwits inspire you to keep your chin up and be the best involuntary arsonist you can be. If you’re the other kind, I’m not going to strain myself concocting your cinematic prescription. You’re probably passed out in a wheelbarrow behind the check cashing place, a venue where this column is not currently published. Besides, unless you’re watching Lifetime there aren’t too many films where people come back from that.
Oh yeah, except this one. Steve Martin’s classic character, Navin Johnson, needs no introduction. It is the truth universally acknowledged that all dudes everywhere love this movie beyond reason. Even if you are not a guy, any extended friendship with one will result in mandatory, semi-annual screenings. You will laugh, but they will laugh to the point of prolapse. Whether Navin is hitchhiking in forty-foot increments or licking a stranger’s face, he is impossible not to love. But seriously, just let your girlfriend go do something with her friends. The longer she watches you writhe on the floor in hysterics, the faster the magic dies.
If Steve Martin set the goofball tone for every post-SNL actor’s film choices, then no one followed direction more successfully than Adam Sandler. In fact, I’m not sure that he was actually acting in those early-90s comedies. That picture on the right? That’s him at his wedding – in real life, to a grown-up lady. I think he only started trying somewhere around Big Daddy. Or at least that’s when he finally started using his “indoor voice.” And Punch Drunk Love aside, I say bring back the old Adam! Remember this one? The lunch lady, the penguin, the oddly heartwarming combo of poop jokes and sexual innuendo? That’s where he really shines. Sure, playing a good-hearted illiterate at forty-eight might come off a little more Forrest Gump than Billy Madison, but I think Sandler could swing it. Who’s with me? O’Doyle rules!
If I meet someone who expresses anything less than an abiding love for this film, that’s pretty much the end of our potential friendship. They can keep talking, but I’ve already murdered them in my mind. Why do we love these clueless gals so much? Because who hasn’t woken up one day and realized they are a complete utter failure? That’s me every Sunday night from like 6:30 on. But unlike the rest of us who just lie on the floor and moan, Romy & Michele spend about four seconds feeling sorry for themselves before coming up with a plan to save their dopey asses. Chief elements include Post-Its, flip phones and strategic use of a fake orgasm. That plus the greatest on-screen dance sequence since All That Jazz? Seriously, if you haven’t spent a post-holiday morning at your mom’s house, eating leftovers in borrowed pajamas while watching this on TBS, then you need to take a good long look at your life choices.
Then there’s the kind of guy who’s not technically a screw-up, but he’s so kind, gentle and unthreatening you still just want to kick him in the face. In this undersung tribute to Howard Hawks, Michael Showalter makes that sweetly bland face perfectly. As Elliot, the technically cute title character, he spends his life tepidly wooing beautiful women into content, if not happy relationships. Things are just fine until their dashing ex-boyfriends show up and they realize Elliot has all the virility of a day-old bagel. In this case, he’s extra screwed – it’s pretty tough for anyone to stand next to Justin Theroux and not come off like a bumbling uggo. Golly, if only he’d notice the mousy girl in the cardigan who is also into matching pajamas and milky tea! Spoiler alert: he totally does. Because she’s Michelle Williams.
I can feel the eyes of the feminist movement burning a hole in my back, but I am with you, ladies! There’s a reason Bridget Jones made such an impact, and it’s not because she’s an everywoman. She is every woman’s deepest internalized fear – a car wreck of a human being we can’t stop staring at, hoping like hell that our brakes are in better shape than hers. It’s not that she’s a drunk, chain-smoking, office hussy. (No judgment there! If Hugh Grant was the boss I think we’d all have a tough time keeping our pants on at work!) It’s that she’s a desperate, obvious, buffoon whose only aspirations are to lock down a dude and lose thirty-pounds. Fair enough, but no easy task when your life is a montage of drunk-dials and waiting for the Haagen-Dazs to soften. Yet she somehow finds the time to stumble into Colin Firth – who is naturally smitten by Bridget’s hangover breath and the thunderous ticking of her biological clock. So, lesson learned, ladies! Above ranting aside, I may or may not own a well worn DVD of this film. It’s the movie I hate to love.