You, Me and Dupree
Director : Anthony and Joe Russo
Screenplay : Mike LeSieur
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2006
Stars : Owen Wilson (Randy Dupree), Kate Hudson (Molly Peterson), Matt Dillon (Carl Peterson), Michael Douglas (Mr. Thompson), Seth Rogen (Neil), Amanda Detmer (Annie), Ralph Ting (Toshi), Keo Knight (Carl's Brother-In-Law), Todd Stashwick (Rod), Bill Hader (Mark), Sidney Liufau (Paco)
Like any other genre, comedy tends to run cycles, and for the past decade American comedies have gotten stuck into a rut that future film historians will most likely label “the comedy of arrested development.” Emasculated men have frequently been the center of comedy (see, for example, Cary Grant in 1938’s Bringing Up Baby or anything starring Ben Stiller), but never have there been so many popular movies about grown men who, for one reason or another, simply refuse to grow up.
Perhaps it is part of Generation X’s resistance against the Baby Boom Generation, or maybe it’s because we’re living longer and therefore feel the need to stretch adolescence well into the mid-30s. Last summer gave us two solid comedy hits, Wedding Crashers, about a pair of divorce mediators who methodically crash weddings to bed women, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin about, well, a 40-year-old virgin who has subsumed his sexual failures into obsessions with collecting toys. There are others--many others. Ask any guy in his 20s or 30s, and you’ll get a laundry list of movies about little boys in men’s bodies, whether it be the return-to-college party animals of Old School (2003) or any movie with the names “Chris Farley” or “Adam Sandler” above the title.
The latest entry in this line is You, Me and Dupree, which attempts to cash in on star Owen Wilson’s current status as poster boy of arrested development by pushing his amiably dazed demeanor front and center. Wilson stars as Randy Dupree, a shaggy, mid-30ish slacker with no job and no place to stay who ends up crashing in the home of his yuppie best friend, Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon), and his new bride, Molly (Kate Hudson). Dupree, despite his innate likeability, turns out to be an awful houseguest--when he isn’t changing the answering machine message or ordering premium cable service, he’s sleeping naked on the couch or, worse, using that same couch to (literally) butter up his date.
At first, it appears that You, Me and Dupree is going to be a one-joke high-concept comedy: How much damage can Dupree do before the respectable couple tosses him out? Can Carl remain buddies with Dupree despite his wife’s increasing agitation at the damage he’s inflicting on their Pottery Barn-perfect renovated bungalow? And, for quite a while, first-time screenwriter Mike LeSieur’s story is going in precisely that direction. However, he throws in a new development by playing on Carl’s understated control freak nature and allowing Molly to expand beyond the cliché of shrill, annoyed wife and into an understanding, sympathetic character who sees more in Dupree than any of his male buddies ever could. In this sense, the movie is not only more empathetic of the usually secondary female role in such comedies, but it also suggests that not all slackers on the outside are slackers on the inside, even if they refuse to work on Columbus Day.
By the end of the movie, it is not Dupree who is making a mess of things, but rather Carl, whose calm, collected exterior has been stripped away to reveal all his trembling insecurities. Carl is incensed with Dupree because he thinks that his buddy’s care-free slacker ways are ruining his life and threatening to disrupt his newly minted marriage. Of course, the deck is stacked unfairly against Carl since he’s dealing with the boss from hell who also happens to be his father-in-law (Michael Douglas), a manipulative land-development tycoon who casually asks Carl to hyphenate his name and later suggests that he have a vasectomy.
When You, Me and Dupree isn’t trying too hard, it works well enough. Unfortunately, directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome to Collinwood) sometimes push the jokes too hard, relying on tired physical comedy and easy visual jokes (Dupree arrives with a moose head under one arm!), not to mention the bathroom humor that is so de rigeur in comedies these days that you can set your watch to it.
If the movie is at all saved, it is because of Wilson, whose crooked-nose charm wears just well enough to keep it from going completely stale. Unlike Adam Sandler, Wilson’s age-defying immaturity doesn’t dawdle into embarrassing infantilism; rather, he has Dupree coast on the notion that his slacker persona is actually a form of ordained rebellion, which he ironically preaches to a bunch of kids on “Career Day” in Molly’s school. Dupree may be more or less redeemed by the final reel, but you get the feeling that he will never fully submit.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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