Thursday, July 20, 2006

You, Me and Dupree

YOU, ME AND DUPREE (Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 2006)

Newlyweds Carl and Molly Peterson (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson) begin married life with a third wheel in their lives in YOU, ME AND DUPREE. They return from their honeymoon and learn that Carl’s best man, Dupree (Owen Wilson), is jobless and homeless because he didn’t have approval to take off the time he spent in Hawaii for their wedding. Despite his wife’s protestations, Carl invites Dupree to crash at their home and assures Molly that his pal just needs a couple days to get back on his feet.

Dupree is a free spirit, though, and his job search is less exhaustive than his time spent training on his bike and getting a half-pipe constructed for neighborhood skateboarders. The tension between hosts and guest build, yet try as they might, they can’t get rid of Dupree.

Carl and Molly’s marriage also faces a challenge from his father-in-law (Michael Douglas), a major real estate developer and Carl’s boss. Mr. Thompson assigns Carl a plum job and then undercuts every decision he makes. He suggests that his son-in-law might wish to take his daughter’s last name, and perhaps he should explore the possibility of getting a vasectomy. Meanwhile Molly becomes frustrated with Carl’s inability to communicate and do something about his friend.

YOU, ME AND DUPREE coasts a lot on the laidback charm of Owen Wilson. He’s carrying out a lesser version of the lovable space cadet that’s been his stock in trade since BOTTLE ROCKET. Of course he’s the kind of guy who would have a mounted moose head among his essentials and turn down a job because it requires him to work on Columbus Day. If more of the film had the zing of Dupree’s inspirational speech to the slackers of tomorrow, keeping in mind it is Molly’s grade school class, this modest comedy might have amounted to something.

As it is, YOU, ME AND DUPREE is shiftless like the loafing thirtysomething. It moves in fits and starts, undecided whether the story is being told from the perspective of Dillon’s slow-burning Carl or the fun-loving Dupree. Carl’s workplace aggravations occasionally add some laughs, but those scenes are inessential to the primary struggle. Halfway through YOU, ME AND DUPREE changes from Carl’s view to Dupree’s. It’s no wonder. Dupree is the more entertaining character, not to mention the most consistently drawn. Carl gets mangled in the gears of the plot. Hudson attempts to bring her light touch to Molly, but her character is simply misconceived. She vanishes for long stretches only to pop up and behave in an inconsistent manner. (Strangely, the other women in the film--a friend's wife played by Amanda Detmer and Dupree's one night stand--are virtually invisible. Detmer is billed in the opening credits, but in my recollection, the only time she’s glimpsed is in rare views running around in the background. If she has any lines, they’re in one of the early wedding scenes.)

Unfortunately for YOU, ME AND DUPREE, it's easier to invest patience in people stumbling to find focus and purpose than films searching for the same things.

Grade: C-

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