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Sunday, July 16, 2006

You, Me and Dupree

Everybody has one in their lives. A Dupree; that best friend or shirt-tail relative that you can’t easily explain to anyone else but that you can’t seem to break it off with no matter how much he or she drives you nuts. You look forward to their visits and then while they are around you count the minutes until they are going home, swearing to never let them through your door again. Until the next time.

That’s a Dupree, a mysterious force of nature,
captured on film this week at the Essex Cinemas in You, Me & Dupree, a frightening glimpse into the hell of hosting the unwanted houseguest. Oh, it’s easy to be deceived. This film stars the affable Owen Wilson in all his Wedding Crashers wild-and-crazy guy glory. He’s carefree, incredibly simple-minded, and a whole lot of fun just like he was as John Beckwith in Wedding Crashers, but unlike Beckwith, Dupree is a whole lot more. He’s smart, weasely smart, he’s seemingly oblivious to his impact on those around him, and most of all, he’s just plain annoying. As the movie’s tag line reads “Two’s company, Dupree’s a crowd.”

Owen is one of those likeable stars that more often than not outshine the crappy material he is in (The Big Bounce; Starsky and Hutch). He of the goofy smile, that nose that looks like it got lost on the way to a plastic surgeon’s office and never stopped to get directions, and the shaggy mane of straw-colored hair that you just know cost a good $500 a cut to look so disheveled. He is by far the only one in movies today who could make you want him to be your best friend while at the same time compelling you to want to strangle him, and that seems to be the basis of this whole movie (and for the most part Wilson’s career).

Poor Carl (Matt Dillon; Crash) and Molly Peterson (Kate Hudson; Raising Helen). They have
barely said their “I dos” before Carl finds that his best friend since elementary school, the singularly-named Dupree, has lost his job, his apartment and his car because he took time off to go to Hawaii to be Carl’s best man at the Petersons’ nuptials. Breaking the first rule of all newly married couples, Carl doesn’t bother discussing his plan with Molly first and instead invites Dupree home to stay with them “until he can get back on his feet, a week at the most.” And so the nightmare begins.

Much like the continuing press and popularity of Paris Hilton, whatever magical bond that exists between Carl and Dupree defies description or understanding. Carl is a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy, a diligent worker, determined to prove himself to his boss, who, unfortunately happens to also be his father-in-law, Mr. Thompson, played with relish by the wickedly funny (and newly face-lifted) Michael Douglas (The Sentinel). Thompson appears on the surface to be the warm and caring father-in-law anyone would dream to have, but in private he manipulates and torments Carl in ways that are below the belt (and when you see the movie you’ll realize I mean that literally). Naturally, Carl doesn’t share a bit of this with Molly, who continues to worship her daddy as the great provider and nurturer of her relationship with Carl.

So as Carl tries to climb the corporate ladder while doing psychological battle with Thompson, he is also wrestling with the encroaching permanence of Dupree, who seems to be in no hurry to leave his comfy digs in what was the Peterson living room. Instead of looking for work, Dupree spends his days teaching the neighborhood kids new skateboarding tricks or hanging out in front of the tv, watching HBO, which he ordered for the Petersons since he thought they needed “an upgrade.”

If only this was the worst of Dupree’s infractions, but the list goes on and on. Among
Molly’s complaints is Dupree’s lack of modesty. First she is surprised to find Dupree pleasuring himself in the living room one night and then very next night she walks in to find him pleasuring the “innocent” Mormon school librarian she had fixed him up with on a first date for that evening. Even on the nights when he is merely sleeping, in the nude, of course, she is greeted in the morning with a full moon on her way to the kitchen. So is life with Dupree.

Ironically, as was bound to happen, as much as Molly at first can’t stand the
interloper on her new marriage she comes to enjoy him and even coaxes a first name out of the guy. Soon her father falls for Dupree as well. It seems the only one who has reached his last nerve is lifelong best buddy Carl, and so we are presented with the film’s dramatic/comedic climax as Dupree must win back Carl’s trust and friendship while setting Carl’s marriage right again after it goes awry because of Carl’s jealousies and misunderstandings about Dupree and Molly’s newfound friendship.

Matt Dillon is no Vince Vaughn, but he does an adequate job as Wilson’s straight-laced straight-man but Kate Hudson seems sadly lost with little to do outside of seeming either perturbed or amused by the antics of her unwanted houseguest. This is 100% Wilson’s feature from beginning to end and he floods it with the patter and “wisdom” we’ve come to expect from his standard slacker character.
Fortunately, at 108 minutes, a visit with Dupree is just long enough to enjoy what he has to offer without your having to worry about your long-term mental health.

At least with You, Me and Dupree the unwanted visitor isn’t really yours. If you’re lucky, you might check it out at the Essex Cinemas at the very moment your own personal plague breezes into town to stay and you’ll miss him. Hey, worse things could happen. He could've wanted to move in.

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