Owen Wilson may be the most unlikely movie star in recent memory. Since his debut in Bottle Rocket ten years ago, his shaggy, character-actor shtick has elevated him from supporting roles (Meet the Parents, The Royal Tenenbaums) to leading man in last years big hit, Wedding Crashers. Ironically, Wilson played the straight man to Vince Vaughn’s overgrown teenager and the balance between the two was one of the reasons that film was so enjoyable. In his new film, You, Me and Dupree, he has to carry the weight of the comedy and he steps up to the plate admirably (if not always successfully).
Your enjoyment of You, Me and Dupree will depend largely upon your appreciation for two types of comedy that have become popular in the last decade or so: Humiliation Comedies and Irritation Comedies. The first, typified by Meet the Parents/Fockers, is a situational comedy built around an increasingly put-upon character whose life gets worse and worse (a role played by Ben Stiller WAY too many times). The second, involves a character who gradually annoys the characters around him/her until they crack and go completely berserk—this type of comedy was perhaps most successful in 1991’s What About Bob? Both of these types of comedy have serious shortcomings for sustaining a feature-length film and You, Me and Dupree never nails either type successfully.
Directors (and brothers) Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriter Mark LeSieur spend most of the movie figuring out what type of comedy they are going for. LeSieur’s script opens with the wedding of Molly and Carl Peterson (Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon), during which we meet Carl’s best friend and perpetual screw-up, Randy Dupree (Wilson). Shortly after their honeymoon, Dupree finds himself jobless and homeless and the Peterson’s take him in—an obvious set-up for Odd Couple-ish comedy that rarely hits bull’s-eye. The film is too long, and it meanders in its first hour, trying out various forms of houseguest-from-hell antics. There are also some attempts at Wedding Crasher/40 Year-Old Virgin randy humor that don’t totally work because they have been trimmed down (and thus, neutered) for a PG-13 film.
A key misstep in the film is the character of Carl. Dillon is good actor (and perhaps the only truly Oscar-worthy participant of the overrated Crash), but he is miscast in his Ben-Stiller-ish role. Carl is wish-washy, making it hard to identify with and root for him. Furthermore, I don’t buy Dillon, who specializes in commanding alpha-male parts, putting up with the series of embarrassments thrust upon him by Dupree and his boss/father-in-law (Michael Douglas). Douglas is also out of place here in a sort of mishmash of his role in the In-Laws remake and DeNiro’s part in Parents/Fockers. He’s a needlessly mean character who Douglass tries to make interesting by playing him kind of goofy. Hudson, interestingly enough, comes off better in her straight-man role than she has in her successful, but obnoxious rom-coms like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It’s a shame that her character is so one-dimensional, because she shows real potential for sardonic wit. It’s also distressing that even though she is the most intelligent and mature character in the film, she is consistently objectified and scantily clad throughout.
What saves Dupree, at least partially, is Wilson. He successfully wins you over from the initial irritation of his behavior through his earnest commitment to his character. The hippy-dippy Dupree is a perfect fit for him and by the end, even though he’s kind of silly, you like him. Wilson is engaging and endearing, and it’s truly disappointing how ordinary and formulaic the movie around him is. If there had been less You and Me and more Dupree, it might have been a much more interesting film.
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