By the time this insufferably messy melange of romantic comedy and buddy comedy hit the 30-minute mark, I fully expected the projector to grind to a halt, slink away in embarrassment and do the decent thing by throwing itself off the building onto the pavement below. That, unfortunately, did not happen, though I have it on good authority that the projector in question hated itself in the morning and is considering suing Universal Pictures.
If you think I’m exaggerating just how abysmal You, Me and Dupree is, let me put it into perspective. I saw this thing in a private screening. When we started, there were 12 people and a dog in attendance. Before it was over — long before it was over — our number had dwindled by nine, and the dog had fallen asleep.
It would be far easier to list the things that are right about You, Me and Dupree than to catalog its sins, but then this review would end right here. The biggest problem — aside from being spectacularly, painfully, dismally unfunny — is that, like its slacker hero, Dupree (Owen Wilson), the movie doesn’t seem to have a clue what it wants to be when it grows up.
The movie starts out like a wayward “Road” picture. Just envision Matt Dillon in the Bing Crosby role (assuming Crosby had been embalmed three days earlier), Wilson as Bob Hope and Kate Hudson as Dorothy Lamour in a scenario where the boys’ friendship is at an end because Bing/Dillon marries Dotty/Hudson. That’s essentially what happens at the start of the film — right down to the jealousy, the sense of loss and the gay subtext inherent in such material. (The last probably explains the occasional use of the word “homo” by both characters as a demeaning concept — just so the audience doesn’t get the wrong idea … even if it isn’t wrong.)
Now, that might have made for an OK concept, but it’s soon overtaken by the film’s desire to become a slacker version of the 1939 play The Man Who Came to Dinner — with Wilson as the world’s most appalling houseguest. (Here you have to envision that play’s egotistical aesthete, Sheridan Whiteside, turned into a hard-riding, hard-drinking, hard-up boob with a bad case of arrested development who can scarcely write his name in the dirt with a stick.)
Again, that might have proved workable — at least among viewers who think that clogging not one but two toilets as the result of excessive indulgence in Buffalo wings is humor in its most highly developed form. (At this point one is permitted to wonder if that “BM” insignia Dupree insists on sporting really does stand for “Best Man.”) However, it doesn’t end there.
Perhaps the filmmakers decided that scatology didn’t provide enough scope for their theme, so Dupree has to become something like a monosyllabic version of Nick Nolte’s vaguely mystical bum from Paul Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills. (OK, maybe they lifted it from Jean Renoir’s 1932 original, Boudu Saved From Drowning, but from the tone of the picture, my money’s on the Mazursky remake.) And this just does not, will not and cannot work — despite our learning that Dupree writes poetry (we are blessedly spared examples) and reads Mensa publications, at least when he isn’t wrecking houses, destroying marriages, avoiding gainful employment and performing acts of self-gratification with the aid of his best friend’s sock (there’s subtext for days in that!).
At the same time, the victims of our sociopathic slacker hero are neither interesting, nor sympathetic — not to mention believable. We’re supposed to buy the 42-year-old Dillon as an idealistic land developer (is there such a thing?) just starting out? If he’s just starting out, how does he have about $1.2 million worth of meticulously restored arts and crafts house? We’re supposed to sympathize with Kate Hudson’s clinched-derriere Molly — she who loses it because her husband has a stash of porn from his pre-marital days? (Now, she might rightly wonder why a guy who married the blondest human being who ever lived has a library of salacious cinema entirely focused on Asian women, but that never occurs to her.)
Beyond this, there’s the casting. Granted, Dupree is the kind of role that Wilson can play in his sleep, and in this case he appears to have done so. The question is how long can he coast on this persona. If Wilson drifts through the proceedings on the tired appeal of his embodiment of the aging stoner-slacker-surfer dude who mostly relates to 14-year-old boys, then Kate Hudson relies on her trademark electric billboard smile. That, however, is more than Matt Dillon has going for him. Whatever Dillon’s talents encompass, light comedy is outside that realm. But then light comedy is outside the realm of this dismal attempt at frothy entertainment altogether. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity, crude humor, language and a drug reference.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke