Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon) should be having the time of his life. He's just married the love of his life, Molly (Kate Hudson), and gotten a promotion from his boss Mr Thompson (Michael Douglas), who also happens to be Molly's father. But when Carl finds out that his best man Dupree (Owen Wilson) has lost his job, his car and his apartment after attending their wedding, he feels duty bound to offer him a place to stay. The loveable Dupree accepts on the condition that he will only be staying "a few days", just enough time to "get back on his feet". But, loveable as he may be, Dupree's eccentric antics soon turn him into the houseguest from hell. With work pressures building up, Molly feeling neglected and Dupree wreaking unintentional havoc, Carl is soon on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
You, Me and Dupree is one of the most frustrating films of the year. The premise may be well worn but it has strong comic potential, particularly in the hands of such a spunky cast. Who hasn't had a houseguest who wouldn't leave? Who doesn't have a loveable slacker in their lives? And yet at every turn you feel like it could (and should) be funnier, smarter, or at the very least more true to life.
It's not that the cast don't try their best. Owen Wilson spends the movie straining visibly to add some pep to the limp material, but comes across as a less funny, less charming version of the rakish man-boy he played in The Wedding Crashers. Dillon and Hudson seem equally ill at ease, and never find any kind of comic rhythm with each other or Wilson. Dillon gives a particularly surly and joyless performance as the straight man to Wilson's joker. Even a veteran and double Oscar winner like Michael Douglas can't find his feet, and his "funny" father-in-law plays more like a creepy sociopath.
A cast can only work within the framework they are given, and this one is as flimsy and superficial as they come. First time writer Mike LeSieur seems to have had a ton of ideas of different directions in which he wanted to movie to go, but no idea how to focus on any of them. Instead the movie meanders from buddy comedy to drama to rom-com and back again.
By his inability to choose, LeSieur dooms the movie to be lukewarm. Themes like commitment and marital difficulty put a dampener on the buddy comedy aspect, and the buddy hijinks in turn ruin the credibility of the romantic stuff. The movie wants to play with grownup stuff like sex, love and responsibility, but can't help being a big clumsy kid about it. The plot is full of sloppily written and unnecessary comedy "bits" that add nothing to the film and only get in the way of the story.
LeSieur gets little help from the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo. They seem to have even less of a clear idea of what they want to achieve, and the result is static, workmanlike visuals and indifferent performances all round. It's not that the movie looks or sounds particularly sloppy, but more that it lacks any of the playful zing that made their moderately successful first feature, Welcome to Collinwood, so fun to watch.
You, Me and Dupree isn't completely without merit. There are a few chuckles, and Wilson is, at first, fun to watch. But, like Dupree, both the movie and Wilson soon wear out their welcome. Both are full of earnest good intentions, but neither can understand exactly what they are doing wrong. Luckily it's not our job to explain it to either of them.
- Alistair Fairweather
A "house guest from hell" comedy that wants to play with the grownups, but can't resist acting like a kid.
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