'Dupree': A Sponge, Holes and All

Haven't we seen this before? Owen Wilson's acting style  --  wide-eyed pseudoinnocence  --  becomes tiresome in
Haven't we seen this before? Owen Wilson's acting style -- wide-eyed pseudoinnocence -- becomes tiresome in "You, Me and Dupree." (Photos By Melissa Moseley -- Universal Studios)
By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 14, 2006

Imagine a sequel to "Wedding Crashers" in which Owen Wilson's John Beckwith moves in with the newlyweds -- and you get the idea of "You, Me and Dupree," a formulaic, shockingly sloppy and virtually laugh-free star vehicle for Wilson.

As the aging Peter Pan Randolph Dupree, Wilson once again plays the sun-kissed naif with a heart as golden as his meticulously messed-up locks. The question is how much longer audiences will accept Wilson's Bugs-Bunny-as-Beach-Boy shtick, or whether his childlike, rascally charm has begun to seem neurotically arrested.

But the fault of "You, Me and Dupree" doesn't lie just with its star. The big-studio debut of brother directing team Anthony and Joe Russo, this is a textbook case of high-concept hackery, a Chinese menu of a movie that has been haphazardly cobbled together by taking one from the "Meet the Parents" column and one from the "Failure to Launch" column (with a generous sprinkling of the aforementioned "Crashers" strewn about like so much MSG).

The preternaturally well-midriffed Kate Hudson plays Molly Peterson, the daughter of a wealthy real estate developer (Michael Douglas, in the role Christopher Walken played last year). Molly has just married one of her dad's employees, a designer named Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon, spending the capital he earned in "Crash" on a chance to go back to "There's Something About Mary"). Carl's best friend Dupree has fallen on hard times and moves in with the newlyweds until he gets back on his feet. A series of slapstick, incendiary and raunchy high jinks ensues as the interloper insinuates himself ever more thoroughly into his hosts' lives.

Do you really need to hear more? Can you see it in your mind's eye? Do you spot all the dips, turns, sight gags and resolutions coming down Main Street? Of course you do. In a movie that reduces Dillon's character, and all husbands, to whipped, denatured creatures, the sparks -- when they fly -- are between Hudson and Wilson, who admittedly are terrific to look at. But with nothing to do but glower, gasp and grin ingratiatingly, they don't play characters as much as present themselves as impeccable screen objects; "You, Me and Dupree" might as well have been called "Dueling Highlights."

But the most egregious dereliction committed by "You, Me and Dupree" isn't the waste of its on-screen talent but the laziness with which they're wasted; if the filmmakers are going to sell out to a big studio, the least they could do is put some of the budget on the screen. With its musical score composed of either needle-drops from "About a Boy" or the syncopated pizzicato-strings riff from every stock Hollywood comedy ever made, "You, Me and Dupree" even sounds hackneyed. As for visuals, it seems that the Russo brothers chose to light their movie as if it were being filmed through an algae-covered aquarium.

Artistically, "You, Me and Dupree" is a mess. Technically, it's an abomination. Spiritually, it's a void. Commercially, it'll probably be a big hit. And on a pristine beach somewhere, Owen Wilson is leaning back, munching on a carrot and gleefully asking himself the rhetorical question: "Ain't I a stinker?"

You, Me and Dupree (108 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity, crude humor, profanity and a drug reference.

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