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You, Me, and Dupree (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Owen Wilson is a member of a group of comics, including Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Jim Carrey, and writer Wes Anderson, who are doing their best to ruin comedy as a force in motion pictures, and this film is right in line with that goal. They appear in each other’s films and have been responsible for some of the worst attempts at comedy of recent memory, like “Anchorman” (2004) and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004).” Wilson has made a substantial number of unfortunate decisions, like “Shanghai Knights” (2003) and “Starsky and Hutch” (2004), among many others. Just horrible movies, all.

As for me, sometimes fate deals you a great hand. I was early for this screening and sat through this entire 105-minute film. My guest was an hour late, so only saw the last 45 minutes As a result of not having had to sit through the first hour, she liked it and I thought it thoroughly deplorable. There’s a moral there somewhere.

How bad is it? Despite his bad taste in pals and choices of films, I am an admirer of Owen Wilson. He was in two movies I liked, “The Big Bounce” (2004), which went almost straight to DVD, and “The Wedding Crashers,” (2005), so he can do good work. I also admire the abilities of Matt Dillon. Even Michael Douglas has had his moments. Kate Hudson, on the other hand, is not high on my list of favorites. So? So the only thing I liked about this movie was Kate Hudson. Dillon is miscast as the lead in a romantic comedy, and Wilson is once again burdened by a fatuous script and story (Mike Lesieur).

The story is truly flimsy. Carl Peterson (Dillon) gets married to Molly (Hudson) and move into a house. Randy Dupree (Wilson) becomes homeless, so his best friend, Carl, asks him to move in with him and Molly, without consulting Molly. Predictably, Dupree is a jerk. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have signed on to what is now de rigueur in Hollywood, picturing all males in movies as insensitive imbeciles. Carl and Dupree and their friends make the jerks in the beer commercials look like a meeting of the Founding Fathers, they are such derivative clods.

Dupree makes the Peterson’s new young married life a living hell. Molly is unreasonably understandable, despite Dupree’s continuous idiotically childish provocations. Then, poof! With no reason whatsoever, Molly, who up until the magic moment, has been suffering this fool ungladly, becomes his biggest fan and supporter. There is no explanation for why she put up with Dupree’s foolishness before and no explanation as to why she changed her tune (when it shouldn’t have been changed).

Hudson starts off as nothing but a beautiful smile. She does have a beautiful smile, but it is anything but ingratiating. In fact for my money it’s the most irritating smile in Hollywood because it is so commercial. She has become little more than the Cheshire Cat, a smile with no substance. After this movie gets going, however, she stops smiling and, as a result, becomes imminently more appealing. Dump the smile, Kate, and you might find that you are an actress.

A telling commentary on the state of popular culture may be made by the low quality of films made today when compared with other eras. The screwball comedy was invented in the 1930s. It generally contained a protagonist who, even though a screwball, was, generally speaking, not hateful. Katharine Hepburn was odd in “Bringing Up Baby (1938),” but she was likeable. Cary Grant was certainly anything but unlikable in films like “The Awful Truth (1937),” and “His Girl Friday (1940).” The list is long, but in most, if not all, the protagonist was likeable and admirable. Here, Dupree is irritating, selfish, and inconsiderate. He barges in on the marriage of his best friend and proceeds to act like an insipid, insensitive clod. Then the clueless filmmakers turn him into this sensitive genius (we see him reading a Mensa publication, indicating a high I.Q.), but what he does to the marriage and house of his friends certainly didn’t seem funny to me.

The only time I laughed in the entire film was when Dupree was confused about a vasectomy. It was funny, but if this is the way LeSieur and the Russos believe a genius thinks and reasons, maybe it explains why they could foist what they put in this film on the audience.

Given the intellectual level of this film, it is not surprising that the ending of the film rewards bad behavior. If you’re smart, it’s an ending you will never see.

July 8, 2006