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You, Me, and Dupree

A Winning Combination

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joseph Russo ("Arrested Development", Welcome to Collinwood) and written by first-time screenwriter Mike LeSieur, You, Me, and Dupree centers on the splintering friendship between two 30-somethings, one a newly married professional and the other an ambition-free, commitment-phobic male.

With Owen Wilson as Dupree, it’s his film from his introduction early on through to the last scene (which takes a semi-satirical, if obvious, crack at motivational speaking) and, luckily, Wilson delivers his trademark laid-back, Zen-masterish persona and neither Wilson nor the character he plays wear thin, thanks to LeSieur’s clever, nimble script and solid supporting turns by Matt Dillon (slightly miscast, but game as Wilson’s tense straight man), Kate Hudson (luminous in a limited role), and Michael Douglas (reliably watchable, but not much else).

Newly married, Carl (Matt Dillon), an architect who works for a large real estate developer, and Molly (Kate Hudson), a schoolteacher, are looking forward to happily wedded bliss, at least until the glow wears off. Their bliss is short-lived, though, when Carl discovers that his best friend and best man at his wedding, Dupree (Wilson), a thirty-something slacker, has lost his job, his apartment, and his car all within a short period of time. Carl invites Dupree to stay with him and Molly, but only temporarily.

Dupree does little to win over Molly or find gainful employment. Dupree’s actions lead to a series of minor and major catastrophes, each one worse than the last. Furthermore, at work, Carl has to contend with the emasculating presence of Molly’s possessive father, Mr. Thompson (Michael Douglas). Add into the mix Carl and Dupree’s friend, Neil (Seth Rogen), married and controlled by his mostly offscreen wife Annie (Amanda Detmer), who represents their worst anxieties about the neutering effects of marriage (or at least the wrong kind of marriage).

As the title character, Owen Wilson sticks close to the laid-back, smart-mouthed, SoCal persona he’s perfected over more than a decade as an actor, beginning with Bottle Rocket, continuing through his incongruous star turns in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights and on through Starsky and Hutch and last year’s sleeper hit, Wedding Crashers. Not surprisingly, Wilson gets all the best lines. Slightly miscast, Matt Dillon puts his familiar intensity and steps into the Ben Stiller/Matthew Broderick-type role. Kate Hudson suffers from a limited, underwritten role that makes Molly a prize to be “won” by Carl or by her father. Michael Douglas repurposes his egocentric, avaricious character from Wall Street, Gordon Gecko, but since You, Me, and Dupree is a comedy, Thompson’s intentions are good, even if his passive/aggressive methods or paternalistic attitude aren’t.

Although You, Me, and Dupree focuses primarily on the tension between Dupree’s extended adolescence and Carl’s personal and professional ambitions, it’s a comedy first, social commentary a distant second. That’s not to say that there isn’t something to Dupree as a reflection of contemporary males caught up in an adolescence that stretches into their mid-thirties (or beyond). There is, but You, Me, and Dupree keeps the social commentary in the background, while pushing forward the relatively safe, personal life-first, profession-second theme that provides Carl with a predictable character arc. Dupree has a shorter arc, working more to change Carl than himself. As it turns out, Dupree is a romantic idealist (or is it the other way around?) waiting for a “sign” from on high to point him in the right direction. Where’s Molly in all this? Good question. It’s a question best answered by the filmmakers, as Molly proves to be the shallowest character in the entire film.

The gags and verbal humor in You, Me, and Dupree range from the slightly amusing to the occasionally hilarious. The contrast and conflict between Dupree’s romantic approach to life and Carl’s ill-fitting machismo leads to at least two tasteless, mean-spirited anti-gay jokes. The homophobic jokes also shift the balance against Carl as a put-upon, sympathetic character.

While the answer probably lies in marketing You, Me, and Dupree to young male audiences, the early reliance on toilet humor seems to belong to an entirely different film (and it should). Luckily though, the toilet jokes quickly give way to smarter one-liners and physical humor. You, Me, and Dupree also treads lightly with the “life lessons” dialogue Dupree and Carl share at key points. And even if the film isn’t as consistently amusing or entertaining as last summer’s Wedding Crashers, it’s still one of the better, adult-oriented comedies of the summer. And that’s something, right? To answer my own question, it is.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars