You, Me and Dupree

An appealing cast, headed by Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson (but not Matt Dillon, who's mmiscast), can't redeem the tired and witless “You, Me and Dupree,” a high-concept comedy based on a situation (the unwanted guest) that has served the genre for at least seven decades.

Joining the trio of the aforementioned comedians are Michael Douglas, as Hudson's dad and Dillon's boss, a doting and scheming real-estate tycoon Mr. Thompson, and Seth Green, as Wilson and Dillon's buddy Neil, both of whom play disagreeable characters that fail to enliven the proceedings.

Lacking witty humor and smart plot variations on the old theme, and offering for the most part dislikable characters, “You, Me and Dupree” further suffers from the over-exposure of comedian Owen Wilson, who has been making two movies a year, in which he's basically playing the same role: a charming, borderline zany, slacker, blessed with the good heart and naivet of a man who refuses or can't grow, doomed to be in a perpetual arrested development.

Released after the biggest comic sensation of the past five years, “Wedding Crashers,” which grossed in the U.S. alone $209 million, Wilson's new vehicle is a major disappointment, both artistically and commercially. In the new comedy, co-directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Ruso, Wilson plays Dupree, a lovable, well-meaning arrested adolescent, who drives his best friends, a pair of newlyweds (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson) nuts by invading their house and interrupting their lives.

I don't know if screenwriter Michael Le Sieur meant his comedy to be a tribute to Paul Mazursky's “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” Iitself a revamping of Renoir's 1932 black comedy) or “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” but Wilson plays a variation of the Nick Nolte character in the former and Monte Woolley in the latter. As Randolph Dupree, he's a free-spirited bachelor and the permanent and unwanted houseguest of Molly Peterson, the understanding yet put-upon schoolteacher bride of Dupree's oldest friend Carl.

Land developer Carl Peterson seems to have a great life: He's just married beautiful schoolteacher Molly, received a solid promotion at work, and moved into an upscale neighborhood. Unfortunately, his new home is crashed and nearly destroyed by his best friend Randy Dupree, an affable bum who has just been laid off and evicted with no place to go. Carl offers to let him stay at his house for “a couple of days,” without consulting or even informing his new wife.

Dupree's “temporary” stay becomes less temporary, leading to all kinds of shenanigans and disasters. The filmmakers pile up skateboard accidents, clogged toilets and even sex, as when Molly walks in on Dupree and his new girlfriend while re-enacting an erotic scene from “Last Tango in Paris.”

Molly's patience with Dupree wears thin, and Carl faces bigger problems with his boss, Thompson, who also happens to be his new father-in-law. Thompson is contemptuous of Carl, undermining his projects, and at one point, even suggestions that he adopt Molly's last name.

The comedy begins well with best man Dupree's late arrival for the wedding rehearsal of his friends. Rushing into the island in a small crop duster, because he first landed on the wrong island, Dupree arrives with a bang. Carl and one of his groomsmen, Neil (Green) are impatiently waiting to meet him.

However, Le Sieur strains to come up with improbable yet funny acts for Wilson's guest there are no sufficient, let alone witty, plot twists to sustain his comic saga for a feature length movie. Out of desperation writer Le Sieur concocts a silly and senseless subplot in which Carl suspects that Randy is having an affair with his wife and negligently leaving his old porn collection in the house.

In chestnuts like “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” the guest, Mr. Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley), an acid-tongued radio host, had a profound effect on each member of the family, and his secretary too (played by Bette Davis). Hence, he advises the household children to flee the social constraints of Ohio and its Middle American Values. And fearing he may lose his loyal employee, he schemes to break up her romance with a local newspaperman. But in “You, Me and Dupree,” the unwanted guest is not a particularly interesting character, and he just wreaks havoc on the house, without leaving much impact on its residents and their entourage.

The key to the film's believability and charm is Dupree' a lack of guile, in spite of the havoc he creates for Carl and Molly and, indeed, Wilson can easily handle such a quirky character without overdoing it. Giving his characteristically laid-back and effortless performance, Wilson is particularly good at revealing his personality while interacting with the neighborhood kids. When he moves into Carl and Molly's house, he makes friends with the kids more easily than any adults. He speaks their language, because he's a kid himself.

Anthony and Joe Russo, who previously made the equally low-key and unremarkable indie comedy, “Welcome to Collingwood,” show problems with mise-en-scene and pacing, and they are not good at orchestrating and executing sight gags and pratfalls.

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong makes a cameo appearance on the fishing boat of Mr. Thompson. A natural icon, Armstrong becomes the object of Dupree's obsession at achieving success through unconventional routes. Though he begins cycling to get into shape, Dupree's inspiration to greatness is taken to the nth degree, adding yet one more item to help raise Carl's ire. But in the film's second half, he starts to become motivated and look for a healer to motivate him. If Armstrong lends charm, the other cameo, by Harry Dean Stanton as a local drunk seems strange since he appears out of nowhere.

Surprisingly, with the exception of Wilson, who acquits himself honorably (but no more), the other expert actors are pale, which could be a function of the writing and directing. Kate Hudson is too nice and adorable, while Matt Dillon (possibly miscast) is not convincing as he changes from a likable, patient man into a rigid jerk and control freak.

By now, Michael Douglas has played so many times the “WASPish” villain that his role here comes across as just an older and mellower variation of that type.

Recycling

The 1986 Mazursky comedy, “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” is itself a remake of Jean Renoir's 1932 classic, “Boudu Saved From Drowning.”

Both “Down and Out” and “Man Who Came to Dinner” serve as scathing critiques of L.A.'s nouveau riche in the former and provincial Middle American manners in the latter. See my reviews of these pictures.

Other movies

What About Bob (1991), directed by Frank Oz. Though he's not a guest house, the phobic character that Bill Murray plays in this comedy is an unwanted patient, who invades the privacy and torments his pompous shrink (played by Richard Dreyfuss)in his vacation retreat, where he ingratiates himself with the shrink's family.