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You, Me and Dupree   C-

Universal Pictures

Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Michael Le Sieur
Cast: Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, Matt Dillon, Michael Douglas, Seth Rogen, Amanda Detmer, Ralph Ting.

Review by Rob Vaux

I'm vaguely offended by the notion that anyone single and over 30 is ipso facto an irresponsible Peter Pan with nothing to do but mooch off his more grown-up (i.e., married) friends. It bugs those of us who labor under such misperceptions. A lot. Just because we haven't paired up and spawned doesn't mean we have problems paying our mortgages, keeping our jobs, or caring for pets, children, and elderly relatives without any of them wandering off. But you wouldn't know it judging by films like You, Me and Dupree. Pop culture loves this particular permutation of the Marry and Reproduce Pravda, and periodically insists on cramming it down our throats. Nothing like that feckless third wheel to clog up the couch and keep you from cranking out a couple of kids like grandma wants, right?

Personal peccadilloes aside, You, Me and Dupree isn't an especially funny film. It leans heavily on the persona of star Owen Wilson -- playing the usual laid-back, lovable fuckup who can't do a thing right, but always has some deeper wisdom to teach us -- without bothering to develop a decent narrative around him. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are probably best known for their work on the brilliant Arrested Development, but little of that lamentably cancelled series' puckish wit is on display here. Instead, it's a jumble of limp routines touched by only the barest hints of humor, as Wilson's shambling man-boy Dupree moves in with his semi-willing best pal Carl (Matt Dillon) and Carl's new wife Molly (Kate Hudson) after losing his job, apartment, and self-respect to a series of barely-noted mishaps.

The script by Mike Le Sieur attempts to skewer our sense of obligation to our friends -- how a well-meaning effort to stand by a buddy on the ropes can lead to disaster. But it has no real idea how to frame that notion in any kind of proper context, instead glomming it onto a series of half-baked subplots involving Carl's conflicts with his boss-cum-father-in-law (Michael Douglas, looking good) and Molly's efforts to get her new husband to communicate with her. Dupree alternately exacerbates and mitigates these troubles with a varying series of slacker fumbles and Zen philosophy. None of the story arcs goes anywhere, and Dupree's hosts/foils have little to distinguish them beyond Hudson's basic likeability and Dillon's ability to look put-upon.

Within that soggy mixture, the jokes just never find any traction. There are a few predictable sight gags of the Locked Out of the House While Naked variety, but mostly, the onerous falls on Wilson, whose well-meaning loser follows the same pattern as far too many of his other characters. If you're a fan, that might be enough. He has some decently goofy one-liners, and as thin as the material is, his combination of sunny disposition and inadvertent bungling is never entirely unwelcome. But the film can't settle on the right tone for him. At times, he's the fly in the ointment, perpetrating all sort of wacky disasters while Hudson and Dillon play straight man for him. Other times, he's the sage advisor, dispensing nuggets of bubblegum wisdom or arriving just in time to prevent some disaster. The mixture is presumably intended to make him well rounded, but the resulting tone is supremely uneven and prevents the premise from settling into a decent rhythm.

In an effort to keep things from growing stale, the film shifts midway through, as Carl begins to suspect Dupree of amorous intentions towards his wife. But that never strikes the right chords either, feeling more like filler than genuine development. And while Douglas makes a fine bastard (you can start making good movies again any time, Mike), Dupree doesn't know what to do with him, trundling out an unconvincing finale after a series of mildly amusing but relatively toothless confrontations. As is typical with films like this, none of that would matter if the jokes hit more often. But laughs are distressingly sparse in this environment, and the situational humor just feels too shopworn to leave any lasting impression. I'm sure the studio is hoping for a midsummer hit along the lines of Wilson's surprise smash Wedding Crashers, but this new effort just isn't up to snuff. You, Me and Dupree has all the makings of a video-store leftover, suitable only for viewers who have nothing better to do.

Review published 07.14.2006.

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