‘You, Me And Dupree': Incredible Lightness, By Kurt Loder

Owen Wilson does Owen Wilson, one more time.

Also: An important retro-lesson from David Mamet and William H. Macy in 'Edmond.'

It’s virtually impossible not to like Owen Wilson. Resisting his rumpled blond charm for some experimental reason would be like snubbing a puppy — how could you? In “You, Me and Dupree,” Wilson plays Randy Dupree, a man crowding 40 whose mind is still stuck back in college (probably doing bong hits and cutting classes). Dupree is the longtime best bud of Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon), who has embraced adulthood with a high-pressure job in real-estate development. More alarming yet, from Dupree’s aging-slacker point of view, Carl is getting married. “I guess this is where the road ends for you and me,” Randy says with a misty smile.

As if. While Carl and his bride, Molly (Kate Hudson), are settling into their new house, Dupree shows up with a ukulele and a stuffed moose head and the news that he’s lost his job and his pad and needs a place to stay. “It’s only gonna be for a couple days,” Carl promises Molly. “A week at the most.” As if.

Dupree is — what else? — a domestic disaster. He puts his own greeting on his hosts’ answering machine. He orders HBO on their cable dime. Entering the bathroom after he’s just left proves to be a terrifying experience. And when Carl and Molly come downstairs in the morning, they’re greeted by the sight of Randy’s bare butt hanging off the couch where he’s sleeping. He also leads Carl astray, inviting all their old school cronies over to watch a big game on TV, and ordering in a pair of strippers for half-time entertainment. Finally, Dupree accidentally sets fire to the house, which proves to be the final straw. Well, sort of final.

Throughout all of this, Carl is being driven crazy by his boss, Mr. Thompson (Michael Douglas), who is also Molly’s father. Dad has always opposed his daughter’s marriage to this unsuitable twerp. He suggests to Carl that Molly be encouraged to keep her maiden name. He also advises Carl to get a vasectomy. Clouds of paranoia fill Carl’s mind, and he begins to suspect that Dupree is putting the moves on his wife. There’s a big confrontation, but the cloud of course passes, as you know with a primordial certainty that it will.

Although he pulled off being a bigoted cop in “Crash,” Matt Dillon is miscast as a corporate shark-in-training — he’s just too sweet. Kate Hudson is essentially a plot-point traffic cop, and Michael Douglas’s one-note hostility sours the story to no particular end. The movie’s conclusion is entirely predictable, and remarkably flat-footed. (Dad finally makes amends to Carl for his sadistic animosity simply by saying he’s sorry.) But originality isn’t the point of a film like this. You go to it for the familiar kooky characters (Seth Rogen is funny as another of Carl’s old pals), the professionally crafted jokes and situations, and the general air of indomitable Hollywood sunniness pumped in by the co-directors, Joe and Anthony Russo (“Welcome to Collinwood”).

Owen Wilson delivers, of course — but he delivers what he always does: a blue-eyed, fluffy-haired amiability that’s pretty much irresistible, but which has been most lovably effective in more anarchic contexts. “You, Me and Dupree” is no “Wedding Crashers,” or even “Zoolander.” The picture is as light and insubstantial as an empty éclair. Coming out of it, you crave heartier carbs.

 

‘Edmond': We’re All Going To Hell

Lesser actors might’ve broken down in fits of helpless, hysterical laughter, but William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, Julia Stiles and a number of other true pros manage to keep straight faces all the way through this woozy, self-important stew of lurid nonsense. It’s impressive, in a way — although not in a way you need to know much more about than what you’re reading here, I don’t think.

David Mamet has adapted his own 1982 play; it’s set in Los Angeles, but with its neon-nightmare streets, strip clubs, pawnshops and bordellos, it feels like it’s taking place in New York in the depths of the 1970s. Which is to say, it feels dated.

Macy plays Edmond Burke, a suit-and-tie corporate drone whose face is locked down into a terminal deadpan. (He looks like he’d need a hammer to crack a smile.) Walking along the street one day he sees a shop with a sign in the window: “The Future Foretold.” Inside, an old woman flips tarot cards at him: Death. The Hanged Man. The Hierophant. The future is obviously dark.

Edmond goes home and tells his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) that he’s leaving her. “Why?” she asks. “I don’t know,” he says. Back on the street, he goes into a bar and encounters a man (Joe Mantegna) who dislikes black people and for some reason thinks Edmond needs to know about it. Then he says, “We’re bred to do the things we do.” Then he hands Edmond a card — a tarot card. No, wait — Edmond looks again: it’s actually just a handout card from a strip club. He goes there and is approached by a beautiful bar girl (Denise Richards). “This is my very first time in a place like this,” he says. “I don’t want to be taken advantage of.” She chuckles and orders two drinks for them; the tab comes to a hundred dollars. Maybe she didn’t hear him. He speaks louder. A bouncer throws him out.

He next winds up in a skeezy brothel, where a skinny hooker (Bai Ling) asks him for twenty dollars. He asks her for change. To her delight, he leaves, this time for a more high-end establishment, where he picks out a gorgeous prostitute. “What shall we do?” she asks coyly. “I’d like to have intercourse with you,” Edmond says. She quotes a price. “That’s too much,” he says. Very quickly, he’s back on the street again.

Edmond is having a bad night. Clueless rube that he is, he gets drawn into a sidewalk three-card monte game. The dealer flips over — a tarot card. No, wait, it’s just a regular playing card. Edmond loses in any event, and when he expresses his belief that the game is not entirely on the up-and-up, he gets beaten and robbed. He enters a pawnshop, trades a ring for some cash and buys a military “survival knife.” Outside, a black hustler offers to get him a girl. When this proves to be a con, Edmond slashes the man and kicks his teeth in. This makes him feel better somehow.

Inside another bar, a nice one this time, he starts gibbering at an angelic waitress (Stiles). “The white race is doomed,” he says. “We live in a fog. We live in a dream.” He tells the waitress he wants to have sex with her. For no sane reason, she takes him home and has sex with him. Afterward, Edmond tells her about stabbing the black hustler. “That’s wonderful,” she says — personally, she hates gay men herself, “because they don’t like women.” This spurs Edmond to further ranting. The girl gets scared. Is he crazy? Edmond answers her unspoken question by stabbing her to death.

Later, in a black street-corner church where Edmond is preparing to “testify” to the congregation, a cop shows up and arrests him. Down at the station, he’s quickly ID’d as the guy who killed the waitress. He’s sent to prison, where he tells someone he thinks he murdered the girl because “I had too much coffee.” Before long a cellmate arrives, an imposing black man (Bokeem Woodbine), and soon Edmond finds the sex he’s been seeking, although of a novel new sort.

Is there a message in all of this? There’s nothing but message. It’s summed up by two questions Edmond asks: “Do you think there’s a hell?” and “Do you think we’re there?” That’s really about it. The movie would like to believe that it’s instructing us, with vintage 1982 edginess, about how hatred of blacks, gays and women has driven America insane. But this is a musty, fatuous notion. Edmond is clearly psychotic — he kills because he’s delusional, not because he’s a bigot. And all of Mamet’s famously staccato, cold-scalpel prose isn’t likely to convince any non-delusional person otherwise. Which leaves the movie holding nothing but a handful of those dumb tarot cards, and folding.

—Kurt Loder

 

Check out everything we’ve got on “You, Me and Dupree” and “Edmond.”

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