The Movie Binge

Review: You, Me, and Dupree

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I came into You, Me, and Dupree with the notion that Owen Wilson ought to stop slumming in so many mediocre Hollywood films and get back to doing more inspired work, preferably stuff that he would write himself, or with a collaborator such as Wes Anderson. But the thing of it is, I'm starting to think that he's actually better off lending his infinite charisma and singular comedic style to the sort of entertainingly middling films that you stumble into viewing on cable, rent on a whim, or watch on a long flight. Wilson has a knack for elevating these films; he brings moments of pure joy and inspiration to small stakes movies that otherwise hedge every conceivable bet.

You, Me, and Dupree is tailor-made for the stock character that Wilson has developed over his filmography – fun-loving, gentle, whimsical, and self-serving though utterly devoid of malice. In this film, he's the wacky house guest who just won't leave. He's well-meaning and intensely loyal to his best friend (Matt Dillon, poorly cast in his role), whose new wife (Kate Hudson, bland but likeable and cute) has difficulty coping with Wilson's free spirited antics, particularly when his absent-mindedness leads to rather pricey property damage. The film is far better as it reverses that dynamic in its second act, and Dillon's character becomes paranoid that Wilson is attempting to usurp him after he bonds with his wife and domineering father-in-law/boss. Dillon awkwardly does his version of Ben Stiller's impotent rage shtick, but it works anyway if just for the contrast with Wilson's airhead nonchalance.

For a film that is ostensibly a comedy, Dupree is curiously light on jokes. This is not to say that it is full of unfunny gags – when it's trying for laughs, it generally scores, if only in a modest chuckling sort of way – but rather that the filmmakers seem focused on a few setpiece routines, and spend rather large portions of the film without even attempting to make the audience laugh. Though Dillon gets some comedic moments here and there, everyone else seems resigned to let Wilson carry the humor, so whenever he's not in a scene, you find yourself stuck watching a weirdly neutral dramedy. This is especially strange given that Dupree was directed by Anthony and Joseph Russo, who both directed several episodes of Arrested Development, a television show in which any given episode is so insanely dense with jokes that it's practically the funniest thing ever by default. Owen Wilson may be fine bringing life to ho-hum mainstream cinema, but the Russo brothers really ought to be doing better work than this.