You, Me and Dupree is a situation comedy that subsists purely on vibe, namely Owen Wilson’s ever-boyish vibe of an innocence that has overstayed its welcome long into adulthood. As the title character Dupree, Wilson plays the loyal best friend to his newly married pal Carl (played with easy humility by Matt Dillon).
Carl and his newlywed wife Molly (Kate Hudson) live under the shadow of her possessive father Mr. Thompson (Michael Douglas) who doubles as Carl’s real estate tycoon boss. But it’s Dupree that casts the longest shadow over the couple’s lives when they give him a place to stay for a “few days” while he hunts for a job after losing his former employment for being absent while he played best man at the couple’s wedding on Maui. A hilarious dinner table scene with the four main characters spikes the movie into a stratosphere of humor beyond its otherwise predictable restraints.
The chemistry between Wilson, Hudson, Dillon and Douglas is promising but screenwriter Michael Le Sieur and co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo never let scenes breathe long enough for the potential sparks to fly. In one potentially hilarious scene, Mr. Thompson suggests to Carl that he should consider getting a vasectomy.
Carl protests diplomatically but accepts a brochure on the topic before the scene suddenly cuts. For all of Mr. Thompson’s wily designs at knocking Carl off balance, we’re barely let in on the joke that he’s merely testing his son-in-law to see what the guy is made of.
The unseen inner mettle of men is the main theme of the movie. Carl is an average guy who has married up. He works a cubical job for his fiancee’s dad until the marriage prompts Mr. Thompson to promote Carl to a dream job overseeing a new land development that Carl has proposed. At Carl and Molly’s wedding party Dupree gives Carl a morale-boosting speech about Carl’s unique sparkle, which he refers to as his “Carlness.”
As the movie goes along we witness Carl’s job and personal challenges as they paint Matt Dillon’s character into a corner. He has the potential for greatness with his adorable elementary school teacher wife by his side, but Carl lacks the finesse of intention that Dupree carries in spades in spite of his authority-defying slacker attitude.
The movie stays in a holding pattern of waiting for Carl and Dupree to reveal their inner natures. The irony here is that for as much as Dupree seems reliant on Carl—he understands Carl much better than Molly does—Carl needs Dupree to show him how to prioritize his life.
Even so, Carl is waiting for his own light to go on. This blind leading the blind gets a kick-start when Dupree nearly burns Carl and Molly’s house down while getting Last-Tango-in-Paris freaky to the strains of “Funky Cold Medina” with the concealed librarian from Molly’s school.
Molly is kind enough to give Dupree a second chance at staying in the house, and he rises to the occasion by going out of his way to clean up the house, do a letter-writing favor for Carl, and cook up a mean dinner for his hosts. Naturally, the effort backfires when Carl misreads the gesture as a way of stealing Molly’s affections away.
A fever-pitch chase scene between Dupree and the security officer at Carl’s workplace answers the audience’s desire for a narrative crescendo. But it’s a stopgap device that masks the film’s lack of comedic richness. Kate Hudson’s comic skills are squandered and we’re left with Owen Wilson’s contagious sense of decadence to make us feel good about a comedy with very little momentum.
You could say that You, Me and Dupree is a movie saved by that certain Wilsonian touch. It’s closer to what Dupree would call “Owenness.” MTW