Friday, July 14, 2006
Owen Wilson wrote, along with Wes Anderson, the first film that brought both of them critical attention,Bottle Rocket
. So from the beginning, Wilson has been savvy about his career and about what kind of roles would best suit him. But what's interesting is that while other comedy stars package themselves in vehicles centered around them (think Reese Witherspoon and Adam Sandler), Wilson frequently makes films where he doesn't mind sharing the marquee with another major star (Jackie Chan inShanghai Noon
, Vince Vaughn inWedding Crashers
) or with an ensemble (The Royal Tennenbaums The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
). Wilson in fact seems to be the perfect co-star for anyone (noteI Spy
where he made Eddie Murphy and the film look better than they were). Rather than trying to compete with his co-stars, he seems to put them at ease so there's no tension disrupting the comedy of the film. He's self-deprecating and totally disarming.
In You, Me and Dupree Wilson plays Dupree, the best man at the wedding of his friend Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson). From the moment he's introduced - landing on the wrong Hawaiian island for the wedding- Dupree is depicted as the lovable screw up. After the wedding, he tests that appeal by moving in with the newlyweds after losing his job and home. As you might expect, his living habits - sleeping in the raw, stinking up the bathroom, inviting the guys over to watch a game - prove distasteful to Molly. But what is less expected is the way he ultimately bonds with Molly as the two share concerns and complaints about living with Carl. He serves as both a substitute husband and a "girlfriend" for her to commiserate with. Matters are also complicated by the fact that Molly's dad (Michael Douglas), who also happens to be Carl's boss, hates Carl and is making his life hell.
You, Me and Dupree is a mediocre comedy but its appealing stars engender such goodwill that you're willing to overlook its shortcomings. Wilson has carved a niche for himself by managing to turn his casual, off the cuff style into a remarkably winning screen persona. But his laidback personality masks an astute sense of comedy. He makes Dupree predictable on one level yet full of little surprises on another. He also finds a way to be charmingly irritating and he doesn't mind being completely goofy.
Offering able support are Dillon and Hudson. Dillon works himself up into an entertaining comic rage while Hudson is all sweetness and smiles. One odd note is that there are essentially no other actresses in the film aside from Hudson. There are a few extras, a secretary has a line and the wife of Carl's friend runs away as soon as the camera catches her in the frame. But Hudson's Molly doesn't have any girlfriends, and Mandy -Dupree's one-night stand that turns into an obsession - is mysteriously kept off camera for the entire film and is not even listed in the credits. Another casting oddity is Harry Dean Stanton who has an inexplicably small role. The wonderfully dour Stanton should have had a more substantial part and been better integrated into the plot. Maybe his scenes lie on the cutting room floor somewhere along with Mandy's.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (their first effort was the caper film Welcome to Collinwood ), the film maintains a breezy enough pace to not wear out its welcome. Working from Mike LeSieur's script, they engage in some low humor and slapstick but always with a certain restraint, as if they're afraid to cut completely loose. Their directing style keeps the film on comic middle ground - not quite willing to be completely wacky yet lacking the emotions and subtleties to be a warmer comedy. LeSieur's script moves in fits and starts rather than creating a narrative flow. The Michael Douglas character is also a weak link that merely serves as a device to turn Carl from a loving spouse to a jealous, slightly deranged hubby. But LeSieur does give Dupree a few unexpected turns in his character development.
You, Me and Dupree (PG-13 for language and crude humor) offers two hours of diversion, nothing memorable but with a trio of pleasing performances.
Companion viewing: Bottle Rocket, Design for Living, Welcome to Collinwood -----