YOU, ME AND DUPREE

PG-13

-By Ethan Alter


For movie details, please click here.

After playing the straight man to Vince Vaughn's wild and crazy guy in last summer's box-office smash, Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson returns to his gonzo roots in the new comedy You, Me and Dupree. That's a good thing, too, because his antics are all that give this picture a pulse.

A sitcom pilot masquerading as a feature film, Dupree finds the titular house-crasher (Wilson) moving in with his best bud Carl (Matt Dillon) when he loses both his apartment and his job on the same day. If you guessed that Dupree's anything-goes lifestyle conflicts with the more stable routine enjoyed by Carl and his new wife Molly (Kate Hudson), you'd be right. In addition to signing up for HBO without telling his hosts, Dupree also stinks up the bathroom, raids Carl's extensive Asian porn collection and, oh yeah, almost burns their house down by lighting too many candles in preparation for a hot-and-heavy date. You'd also be right if you guessed that, by the end of the movie, this houseguest from hell would learn the error of his ways and find the time to teach his work-obsessed friend to loosen up a little. You, Me and Dupree is so bland and predictable, it's totally ready for prime time.

The film's made-for-TV feel is probably also due to the fact that co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo have an extensive television resume, including several episodes of the late, great anti-sitcom "Arrested Development." Unfortunately, Dupree has none of that show's brilliantly subversive wit, instead trafficking in the kind of lazy broad comedy-look at Carl and Dupree fall off their skateboards!-that the Bluth clan would have ridiculed mercilessly. There's a haphazard nature to the narrative as well, which suggests that the movie was largely improvised on the spot and then constructed in the editing room. That would explain the jarring shift in tone that occurs halfway through when Dupree suddenly becomes a model lodger, while Carl turns into a bitter, angry A-hole who ignores his wife and attempts to strangle his former friend. We're meant to believe that his transformation is the result of his stressful work environment, where he's constantly needled by his boss-and Molly's overprotective father-Mr. Thompson (Michael Douglas), but this storyline is sorely underdeveloped, not to mention mean-spirited. Perhaps other actors may have been able to find the humor in Thompson casually suggesting that Carl get a vasectomy, but Douglas and Dillon look about as uncomfortable playing this scene as we are watching it.

No doubt realizing that the burden of keeping the audience entertained rests entirely on his shoulders, Wilson throws himself into his role, mugging and quipping like the pro that he is. His chief strength as a comedian is his unpredictability-you're never exactly sure how he's going to approach a particular line or scene. Perhaps his best moment comes at the end of the film, when he leads a security guard on an extended chase through the hallways of Carl's office, all the while shouting about the seven different ways he's "bringing the smoke." It's a shame that he's surrounded by actors that aren't as adept at going off-book; Dillon makes a terrible straight man and the always-appealing Hudson seems largely mystified by her capricious co-star. The only member of the ensemble able to keep up with him is Seth Rogen, the ace scene-stealer from The 40 Year Old Virgin, who is underused here as Carl's other good friend, Neil. Between them, Wilson and Rogen almost generate enough laughs to make You, Me and Dupree worth seeing. But audiences are probably better off waiting until it turns up on television.

-Ethan Alter


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