In any given year, there are — at best — three to four really great comedies, and though we haven’t been given any yet in 2006, the next three weeks do offer some promise with Clerks II and, two weeks later, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. As a critic, however, it’s important to go in with an understanding of how difficult comedy is to pull off, and I’ve come to sort of expect disappointment week after week. I’m OK with that. And though the previews and the assembled cast gave me a flicker of hope for You, Me and Dupree, it is, as expected, no exception to the glut of lazy, indifferent comedies that corporate shills churn out on a near-weekly basis to masses of folks who generally get nothing in return for the $10 than the right to bitch about the experience afterwards.
But You, Me and Dupree does provide a welcome exercise for critics who have to see this shit anyway, and I admit I get a certain joy out of learning whether a favorite comedic actor can escape a mediocre film unscathed by the loathsome writing or haphazard direction. Michael J. Fox used to master this back in the ’80s; the man could show up twice a year in some cinematic offal like Doc Hollywood or The Hard Way and no one would think the less of him. Tom Hanks also pulled if off for a while in flicks like The ‘burbs, The Money Pit, and Turner and Hooch before his talent caught up with his likability and he turned to more serious roles. I’d argue that even Adam Sandler managed the feat for a few years, before Little Nicky came along and forever tarnished whatever the fuck it was about him that we liked.
Of late, there have been a few comedic actors who have tried to slip some wretched excuse for entertainment past us and hope for forgiveness. I think Will Ferrell’s got a few more stinkers in him before we give up all hope; I don’t think anyone who fawned over Vince Vaughn before The Break-Up likes him any less now; and Jack Black gave up the ghost the day he walked off the High Fidelity set (anybody who let him slide with Saving Silverman had to have some serious reservations after Envy, Shallow Hal, and Nacho Libre.)
But what of Owen Wilson? I think it’s safe to say that most of us forgave him for Starsky and Hutch and The Big Bounce and, for reasons I can’t properly explain, some people actually enjoyed Zoolander. And as sadly pathetic as You, Me and Dupree is, I doubt there’ll be any long-term damage to the guy’s reputation. For fans of his work with Wes Anderson, he’ll probably be able to skate by for a lifetime and, for those who aren’t, Wedding Crashers probably extended his expiration date another three years.
But as much as I like Wilson, I have to wonder a little about his sense of self-respect after showing up in Dupree. It’s not the masturbation scene, or the fact that he rubs his date down with margarine before schtupping her that bothers me; the 37-year-old teenager is a virtual archetype in today’s comedies. It’s that Wilson seems to have lost his ambition. I mean, c’mon: He could’ve single-handedly written a script infinitely better than Dupree in the time it took him to film the scene on the shitter. Seriously, any asshole could’ve picked up “The Secrets to Writing a Successful Screenplay” and come up with a film that concludes with a vacuous apology, a soulless kiss, and a Coldplay song — it’s in the first motherfucking chapter. (Page 16: “Can’t come up with a decent ending? That’s OK. Just buy the rights to a Coldplay song — works every goddamn time.”) So why would a guy who co-wrote Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums agree to star in a film written by a guy who picked up all his tricks from Tim Herlihy? And the answer is: I haven’t a clue.
I’m being pointlessly digressive here because You, Me and Dupree offers so little substance to write about. It neither inspired laughter nor outright anger, and mediocrity doesn’t have a lot of flash. It was a 108-minute-long shoulder-shrug, a doozy of a “whatever.” It just is. It’s basically a cinematic adaptation of Ben Folds Five’s “Steven’s Last Night in Town,” without piano, only in Anthony and Joe Russo’s (Welcome to Collinwood) version, Steven ultimately redeems himself.
Here, Steven is Randy Dupree (Wilson), a slacker layabout who has lost his job and his apartment and is forced to move in with Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson), who have just returned from their honeymoon. For half the movie, Dupree makes for an awful houseguest: He stops up the toilet, he orders HBO, he steals Carl’s porn collection, and he talks Carl into letting loose one night long enough to make nachos on Granny’s priceless cheese plate, which — I know! — is pretty freakin’ hilarious, right?
However, after he burns down the living room during the butter-flavored tryst with a Mormon librarian (because the word “Mormon” is supposed to be funny?), he is magically redeemed by a lengthy musical montage. Suddenly, Dupree is the model houseguest, and Carl is the anal-retentive jerk who has a problem with Twinkies. Kate Hudson, meanwhile, occasionally shows her ass, flashes her dimples, and otherwise twirls her hair while Wilson and Dillon argue about thank you notes, cleaning up around the house, and why Molly’s father (Michael Douglas) wants Carl to get a vasectomy (don’t ask). Expectedly, the “tension” escalates, everyone gets angry, everyone fights, and everyone makes up. Finis.
That’s really it; it is no more or less drab than the plot summary suggest. It’s a generic, wooden, humorless (except when Seth Rogen is onscreen), harmlessly stupid comedy that — for anyone who bothers to watch — completely wastes Owen Wilson’s free pass. It is, for all intents and purposes, about as action-packed as picking out dish towels, only Dupree leaves you with nothing to wipe your hands on.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in a blue house with his wife in a hippie colony/college town in upstate New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
You, Me and Dupree / Dustin Rowles
Film | July 17, 2006 | Comments ()