You, Me and Dupree (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

You, Me and Dupree represents the second high-profile movie of the summer of 2006 to be mis-marketed as a comedy. As with The Break Up, this stars one of the featured actors from last year's surprise hit, Wedding Crashers. However, Owen Wilson isn't able to add more comedic pizzazz to You, Me and Dupree than Vince Vaughn was capable of providing to his anti-romance picture. In actuality, this is a flaccid drama with occasional "humorous" interludes. Unfortunately, most of the humor isn't any more amusing than the serious stuff is dramatic. You, Me and Dupree is a mess of conflicting tones and missed opportunities. The only one to emerge unscathed is Kate Hudson, who exhibits qualities she has rarely shown since her breakthrough role in Almost Famous.

Newlyweds Molly and Carl Peterson (Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon) have returned from their honeymoon to discover that Carl's good friend and Best Man, Randy Dupree (Owen Wilson), has had a run-in with Murphy (of Murphy's Law). His recent list of misfortunes sounds like the refrain from a country music song: he has lost his job, his apartment, his car, and just about everything else he can't fit into a duffel bag. Carl, without consulting with Molly, offers Dupree the use of his couch. Dupree, never one to miss an opportunity to freeload, takes the invitation to "make himself at home" literally, hijacking the Petersons' answering machine, ordering HBO, and inviting a "few" friends over for a party. When an incident with candles and butter makes one wonder if Dupree is a Talking Heads fan, Carl puts his foot down and asks Dupree to leave but, like a bad penny, he comes back. This time, Molly is the sympathetic one and Carl is losing patience. Meanwhile, at work, Molly's father (Michael Douglas) - who is also Carl's boss - has put the new groom under a lot of stress, forcing him to work late hours and giving Molly and Dupree time to get to know one another.

Directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo spend a lot of time during the course of You, Me and Dupree trying to develop a viable dramatic storyline. If only they had spent as much time on the comedy. With the exception of a few gags (including a couple involving toilets) and slapstick antics, this film is devoid of potentially laugh-inducing material. It's not that the jokes fail - they aren't there. The filmmakers want us to become invested in the lives of the characters to the extent that the humor ends up on the back burner. This isn't an inherently bad plan if it works. Sadly, the characters in You, Me and Dupree aren't sufficiently humanized for anyone to care about them.

Dupree starts the film as an obnoxious home wrecker. Then, after a series of unfortunate circumstances, he turns into a pathetic puppy dog who becomes housebroken. Carl devolves from a caring friend and husband into a boorish lout. The only one of the main trio who remains consistent is Molly, and we're not sure where her romantic sensibilities lie. For a while, there are indications that she may be falling for Dupree. Then the script, which appears to be going in that direction, does an about-face. It's as if the filmmakers can't figure out who they want the audience to sympathize with. Michael Douglas is added as a one-dimensional villain, but his contributions are so infrequent that he doesn't incorporate much to the proceedings.

It isn't that Owen Wilson can't do drama - he's coldly effective in The Minus Man, where he plays a serial killer - but his recent anchoring in comedies has retarded his range. His performance in You, Me and Dupree is continually off - too saccharine on some occasions, too earnest on others. It's hard believing in Dupree as more than a writer's construct. That might be okay for a balls-to-the-wall comedy, but it sinks a movie with designs on tugging the heartstrings. Matt Dillon rolls with the punches. When Carl's a nice guy, he plays him as such. When Carl's a bastard, that's what Dillon brings to the screen. The problem with this character is that he's badly written, not that he's badly acted. At least Kate Hudson is consistently endearing (and oh-so-reminiscent of her mother, Goldie Hawn).

You, Me and Dupree is one of those mediocre, thow-away films that is destined to become lost in the mid-summer crush. There's nothing about this movie that makes it stand out from either a dramatic or a comedy perspective. Quite the contrary, in fact: those expecting to get more than a handful of half-hearted chuckles are likely to be disappointed. Were it not for the A-list cast, You, Me and Dupree is an effort one might expect to move directly to video store shelves, bypassing multiplexes altogether.

You, Me and Dupree (United States, 2006)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, Matt Dillon, Michael Douglas
Screenplay: Mike LeSieur
Cinematography: Charles Minsky
Music: Rolfe Kent
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:48
U.S. Release Date: 2006-07-14
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1