Funny that Owen Wilson should star in a film about a guy who wears out his welcome, because “You, Me and Dupree” marks the point where he’s juuuuust starting to do that himself.
The one character Wilson ever plays — the footloose, sincere-sounding horndog with the vaguely New Age philosophies — was once hilarious, making “Shanghai Noon” a quirky success, adding merriment to “The Royal Tenenbaums,” buoying “Wedding Crashers.” But during the latter film I wondered: How much longer can he do this? “Wedding Crashers” seemed to be the pinnacle of Owen Wilson’s career trajectory, the role he’d been born to play and had been practicing for all his life.
Sure enough, he has crested, and “You, Me and Dupree” marks the start of his descent down the other side. Dupree is a sitcom character, the bumbling, well-intentioned buffoon who is adored by everyone, except for one person who sees him for what he is and can’t understand why everyone else loves him. “You, Me and Dupree” incorporates several standard sitcom plots — My boss is coming for dinner! The houseguest won’t leave! We’re having a wild guys’ night out and my wife just showed up! — and executes them no better than “According to Jim” would.
Dupree (Wilson) is an unemployed 30-something slacker who loses his apartment and crashes at the home of his best friend Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon) and his brand-new wife Molly (Kate Hudson). The arrangement is “just for a few days,” and of course Dupree is going to jump RIGHT into the job search, but obviously those pledges are broken and soon Dupree is wreaking havoc on the Petersons’ lifestyle.
The film’s first section is the mayhem phase. Dupree destroys things, breaks things, sets things afire, sleeps naked, interrupts his hosts’ lovemaking, and so forth. All of this is done with benign obliviousness: Somehow, Dupree doesn’t realize what an obnoxious, boorish jackass he is.
The next phase is the one where Carl, Dupree’s best friend and one-time defender, starts to turn on him, while the once-reticent Molly bonds with him. (As Carl grows more and more frustrated, you think: When did Matt Dillon become Ben Stiller?) Carl, under a lot of pressure at his land-developer job — where Molly’s father (Michael Douglas) is his boss — grows resentful of Dupree’s easy rapport with his wife. He even gets suspicious of Dupree’s motives toward her. He can’t see why everyone (his wife, his father-in-law, his friends, the neighbor kids) love Dupree.
I don’t get it, either, which is one of the reasons I didn’t care much for the movie. Why would you let this guy get away with so much? Why would you let him continue to live in and destroy your house? What, exactly, are you getting out of this friendship?
There’s a third angle to the film that pops up sporadically, and that is where Carl’s boss/father-in-law doesn’t like him and wants him to get a vasectomy so he can’t have children. Now, I ask you, regardless of what he thinks of the man his little girl has chosen, what proud father-of-the-bride doesn’t want grandkids? I think this episode was included only because the screenwriter (first-timer Mike LeSieur) felt he needed one more conflict and couldn’t come up with a logical one.
The film is directed by the Russo Brothers, Anthony and Joe, who directed several episodes of “Arrested Development” and won Emmys for the pilot. Do not let that former excellence fool you into thinking they have done something interesting with “You, Me and Dupree,” however, because they have not. Every comedic move is visible a mile away, every plot point checked off in the normal sequence.
Which isn’t to say it’s not funny sometimes, because it does have its moments. I find myself feeling very little about it one way or the other. It’s not aggravating, nor is it hilarious. The movie is much like Dupree himself: sorta tolerable, mostly useless, and content to just sit around doing nothing.
C+ (1 hr., 48 min.; )