You, Me and Dupree

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You, Me and Dupree
Review (4.5/10)
(By Jeffrey Chen)

If a movie only aspires to be a formula-genre film, it still needs a little something extra to make it work. “You, Me and Dupree” arrives as nothing more than an "uninvited guest won't leave and turns the household topsy turvy" story. Usually these kinds of plots leave room for the uninvited guest to exercise his shtick. In this one, Owen Wilson is that character, the titular Dupree, and he's as good a choice as any to play up such a role and make it memorable. However, the actor has been around long enough now to make his usual personality feel typical; given that and almost nothing else for strong support, this movie falls flat.

Part of the problem involves cast members not feeling quite in sync with each other and their own characters. Dupree, the best man at the wedding of his friend Carl (Matt Dillon), crashes in on him and his new wife, Molly (Kate Hudson), just as they're settling into their new house. Wilson is guilelessly playing himself, which in the past has demanded an equally strong personality to bounce off of. He's eccentric, but has a soft side that is always willing to complement or defer to his comic partners like Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, and Jackie Chan. Unfortunately here, Dillon plays his part not only entirely straight but also uncomfortably stiff. The two can't convince us about being best friends since childhood -- when Dillon occasionally acquiesces to Wilson's requests to goof around, it feels like a sore stretch.

Dillon is also victimized in a side plot concerning his character's father-in-law, Mr. Thompson, played by Michael Douglas. Thompson happens to be Carl's boss, too, and since Carl isn't good enough for daddy's little girl, Thompson tries in various ways to humiliate him. The storyline has nothing to do with Dupree and, frankly, isn't all that interesting on its own. Meanwhile, Molly is given perhaps the strangest character arc when, after Dupree has far more than overstayed his welcome, she has a turnaround and eventually sympathizes with him. This is supposedly due to Dupree figuring out he's got to straighten up, thus showing his more sensitive side, but it feels like the script is merely searching for places to go.

Having little insight to add to the already huge pile of man-child movies exploring the middle-class American male's refusal to grow up, “You, Me and Dupree” depends completely on Wilson to give it life. At least the uniqueness of his brand of comedy acts as a counterpoint to his angrier, dopier contemporaries. Adam Sandler is bitter, Vince Vaughn is arrogant, Will Ferrell is clueless, but a Wilson character is never any of these things -- ok, he can be clueless, but not outright stupid. He's oblivious much of the time, but it's a determinedly blissful oblivion; he somehow manages to communicate that he means others no harm, and that he mostly wants to share with them the fun he's having. His comedy is genial and his sweet side feels genuine.

Thus, to some degree, a Wilson charm comes through in “You, Me and Dupree,” but that may be all there is. The movie doesn't know how to maximize his comedy, putting him through a development that has him starting out as the most thoughtlessly horrific of houseguests and finishing up as an example of loyalty and liberating free-spiritedness, but doing little to make it any more convincing than just reading a description of it. The movie feels like an afterthought, a trial-and-error effort in the search for the ideal Owen Wilson solo vehicle.

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