You, Me and Dupree (2006) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity, crude humor, language, and a drug reference
Running Time: 108 min.

Cast: Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson, Michael Douglas, Seth Rogen, Amanda Detmer, Sidney Liufau, Lance Armstrong (cameo)
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Screenplay: Mike LeSieur
Review published July 16, 2006

In the film, Dupree (Wilson, Cars) finds himself jobless and homeless, and he is taken in for a brief period by his newlywed best friend Carl (Dillon, Herbie Fully Loaded) and his wife Molly (Hudson, The Skeleton Key).  The job hunt proves to be more difficult than Dupree has planned, and his presence around the house, which includes sleeping in the nude, snoring, poor dietary habits, and leaving hellacious odors in the bathroom, begin to dissolve the graciousness of his hosts to the point where they want him out.  Things really start coming to a head as Carl starts to fall apart from job-related stress emanating from pressure from his boss (and father-in-law), played by Michael Douglas (The Sentinel, The In-Laws).  As his proverbial manhood becomes increasingly squeezed in a vice on the job, his patience for Dupree's antics have him close to going over the edge of his sanity, testing their friendship and his own marriage.

I'm not sure what to make of You, Me and Dupree except to state that, whatever the creators of this comedy intended to make, they failed to make it successfully.  Based on the way the film is marketed, this would appear to be a screwball comedy of the "third wheel" variety.  The formula usually consists of a couple (or a family) that allows an intrusion from an outside party, who proceeds to make them miserable through his overbearing nature.  As the plots of these films go, sometimes the husband of the film ends up looking like the bad guy as he tries, mostly in vain, to keep the uncouth individual from threatening to tear his marriage or family apart.  Notable entries in this genre include What About Bob?, With A Friend Like Harry, and, of course, The Third Wheel (coincidentally, starring Owen's brother Luke, and ending the same way, with the "third wheel" heel dancing to the exact same song -- "Bust a Move" by Young MC).

What they didn't end up doing that would have made the film work much better is to make Dupree, played by consummate irresponsible sidekick Owen Wilson, a real ass of a friend.  True, he is a bit overbearing and klutzy, with some ill-mannered habits, but for the most part, he comes across as a genuinely likeable man-child that most people would actually like having as a friend.  The people that don't come across as likeable are, most notably, the couple we're supposed to identify with.  Carl ends up being a bit of a hothead jerk, with Dupree constantly needing to cajole him into loosening up a little and having some fun.  With his controlling wife and her equally controlling father, it's not an easy task, as Carl is emasculated on a nearly daily basis. It's hard to imagine a family most men would want to marry into less than this, regardless of how cute they may find Kate Hudson to be.

With Carl a jerk, his wife a shrew, his father-in-law an a-hole, and the rest of Carl's friends even more irresponsible, Dupree just about comes across as the only really likeable character in the film, when all the while, he should have been the most screwed up.  Unfortunately, this film isn't supposed to be about how one decent but heavily flawed guy copes with the problems of his unappreciative friends, nor should it be about how his unappreciative friends patronize him constantly and use his earnest attempts to make amends for his mistakes to their advantage.

It's supposed to be how a once happily-married couple has their lives turned inside out by their obliviously obnoxious temporary roommate.  However, most of the problems in the marriage and at Carl's job would probably exist regardless of Dupree's presence in the household, as Carl's stress causes him to alternately withdraw from his wife, not making much of an attempt to communicate. only to lash out whenever he has a particularly bad day.  For a film that is supposed to be about a nuisance of a best friend, it's funny how much Dupree ends up helping more than he does hurt.

Perhaps I'm quibbling too much about how the Russos (Welcome to Collinwood, "Arrested Development") missed the mark in terms of the way the plot should unfold, because it seems unlikely that the script by first-time screenwriter Mark LeSieur had the stuff to elevate the film into a comedy worthy of some solid chuckles even if it were set up properly.  The tone of the comedy proves to be wildly inconsistent, employing moments of slapstick, crude humor, sitcom antics, and silliness in abundance, followed by some serious moments of drama that don't jibe well with the sophomoric antics that precede them.  Asking us to care about the characters during these more heartfelt moments is a disaster in itself, because, quite frankly, we don't like them.

It seems that most of the weight of the comedy in the film is thrust upon Owen Wilson and his propensity to ad-lib, and while he has proven himself a master of this in comedies where he isn't the main attraction, when he is a lead performer, his one-note characters come off as difficult to believe.  It's also hard to believe that an intolerant Carl would ever be best friends with someone with so many idiosyncrasies, and perhaps even more perplexing, that he wouldn't already know these things before consenting to let him in his home.  Considering Carl chose to make his life-long friend Dupree the best man at his wedding, it seems strange that everything Dupree does seems to come as a shock to him,  not knowing about his propensity to exaggerate, masturbate, and malodorously defecate whenever left to his own devices.  Did Dupree never use Carl's bathroom before at any point of his life??

If you've bothered to read this far, you have probably already surmised that Wilson isn't able to make anything of this film, especially since there isn't anyone else in the cast who is a comedian in his/her own right to play off of.  When Wilson gets to play off of another comedic talent, such as Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, or even Jackie Chan, he can be funny.  When he's the only one in the film trying to make something funny out of such a witless idea for a movie, his quips can't bounce back in the form of more quips from actors equally up to the task.  Alas, the only reverberations we hear come from the echoes heard in the cavernous depths of a theater filled with mostly silent patrons restlessly, and fruitlessly, waiting for something funny to occur worth laughing at.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo