Friday, 29 September 2006

You, Me and Dupree (2006)

If Dupree can cook, so can you!

The man who never managed to grow up is a role perfect for comedy. The eternal frat boy even in his mid-thirties, this impossible creature either plays the Holy Fool or the Slacker Loser. With acting talents like Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, and writers like Kevin Smith on the scene, comedies this decade have been dominated by the second subspecies. That’s even though most recent reiterations of the second man-child type aren’t exactly likeable due to current writers exploring the darker, more pathetic side of life in these comedies.

For quite some time, audiences were left with Dudley Moore’s Arthur, a grown man full of adolescent joy and wonder… and propensity for destruction – until now, with the establishment of Owen Wilson as the sole representative of the likeable and sunny man-child in films. In You, Me and Dupree, Wilson plays Dupree, a slightly older version of a male Pippi Longstocking. That means he’s not particularly bright but is lots of fun to hang out with, and would make a great best friend even if you’re both over 30. And yes, he will probably drive you insane should you make the mistake of inviting him to stay over for an extended period – which is precisely what happens when Dupree loses his job, flat and car and needs to crash into his newlywed best friend’s home.

Understandably, all hell breaks loose, and you expect Dupree to cause serious tensions between his hosts Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson). And of course, burn down their new house in some really funny incident. Making this comedy much less predictable and far more watchable is the introduction of Michael Douglas as Carl’s father-in-law and boss. As a demented Gordon Gecko of real estate development and an insanely possessive and controlling father who didn’t adjust to his daughter’s marriage, Douglas spells trouble for Carl at work as much as Dupree spells trouble for Carl at home.

The plot device that smashes the two elements together is completely far-fetched and implausible that it might sink the movie entirely. The long preparation and comic build-up in the movie makes the eventual plot device seem natural, and is done so subtly that you won’t notice it on first viewing – because you’ll still be laughing at Owen Wilson’s many antics as man-child and the many variations of his relationship with the newlyweds. The payoff is in the third act of the movie, where Dupree, like all holy fools, manages to bring light, warmth and happiness to all the characters in the movie in a very inspiring and insane manner.

You, Me and Dupree is slightly long for a modern comedy based on one silly character, but the combination of the gags, the coherent and non-meandering plot, the sight of Michael Douglas hamming it up, and an irrepressible Owen Wilson make a trip to the cinema very worthwhile. To top it off, there are no fart jokes, scatological humour or gross sexual jokes that American comedies have been overusing for the past decade! The only downside appears to be the underutilisation of Kate Hudson’s comic abilities.

First published at incinemas on 5 October 2006

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