You, Me, and Dupree

Anyone with a couch, a spare room or a basement knows a Dupree. Dupree, as played by the always likeable Owen Wilson, is that carefree, throw caution-to-the-wind friend who passed puberty but never grew up. There have been a lot of man-child movies lately, perfect excuses for juvenile behavior. If these characters weren’t so earnest they would be pathetic. Wilson is extremely earnest as Dupree, but his situation is just as pathetic.

Dupree is the guy’s guy, the best friend who needs a temporary place to crash and then ends up staying long past their due date. It doesn’t take long before newlyweds Molly (Kate Hudson) and Carl (Matt Dillon) Peterson have had enough of Dupree, who has taken up residence on their couch after a string of bad luck. Since Dupree is a man-child, he returns the favor by moving in all his crap and making their place his own.

Back in the 1970’s, Saturday Night Live featured John Belushi in a sketch as The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave, a party guest who couldn’t take a hint. What made the sketch funny was the fact we could identify with the unfortunate couple looking for closure. Dillon and Hudson do a good job emulating those reactions and emotions, going from mildly annoyed to major league pissed off. Hudson is especially effective as a new bride looking for a little magic in her marriage. If only she could just make Dupree disappear.

You can see why Carl stands by his best friend, even when it means jeopardizing his marriage. Dupree represents freedom. He’s not really a bad person, he just doesn’t know better. So when Molly walks in on Dupree in the middle of sex, just as when Dupree walked in on Molly and Carl to use their bathroom, he doesn’t see it as an intrusion but an inconvenience.

Which means You, Me and Dupree isn’t so much about accepting the man-child, but helping him take the next step towards adulthood. After Molly has had enough, Carl kicks Dupree out, leaving the couple alone to enjoy and contemplate their future. Some future. Carl works for Molly’s father (Michael Douglas), who hates his son-in-law so much he encourages him to have a vasectomy and demand his daughter to keep her last name. Even when puff daddy promotes Carl, you know he’s really looking out for Molly.

Dillon, mostly known for dramatic roles, shows a real flair for comedy. There’s Something About Mary was just a warm-up for his priceless expressions in You, Me, and Dupree. There’s great comic conflict in his delivery, especially when Molly has a change of heart and lets Dupree return to their home. Dillon observes this cinematic ping pong tournament with honest bewilderment, never advancing into caricature. He’s like Darren in Bewitched, trying to maintain while chaos surrounds him.

Wilson is definitely chaotic as Dupree, an impish, wide-grin boy toy. He can be excruciatingly irritating one moment, sweet and sincere the next, never missing a beat. This duality allows the writers to transform the film from a slob comedy into a thoughtful examination of true friendship. The more Molly gets to know Dupree the more she likes and understands him, setting the stage for the story’s only natural conclusion: the way to get rid of Dupree is make him self-sufficient, a process which leads to a lot of laughs.

There are a fair amount of laughs in Little Man, the latest comedy from the Wayans brood, but to be fair, the laughs are cheap and artificial. Sure, the sight of a man-baby (do we sense a recurring theme here?) nailing other men in their beanbags is funny, once. Maybe twice. No, sorry, it’s only funny once, but that doesn’t stop the filmmakers from repeating the same gag over and over. I haven’t seen this many men kicked in the nuts since America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Gimmicky to the point of distraction, Little Man stars Marlon Wayans as diminutive thief Calvin Sims, who escapes from a diamond heist with his partner Percy (Tracy Morgan) by dropping the stolen gem into the purse of an unsuspecting shopper. Anxious to retrieve the diamond, Calvin hatches a plot to gain entrance to the house by pretending to be a baby left on the childless couple’s doorstep.

The couple, Darryl (Shawn Wayans) and Vanessa Edwards (Kerry Washington), are so desperate to start a family they agree to take in infant Calvin until they can contact child services. Once inside, Calvin is forced to maintain his ruse, playing a baby even though he has the package of a man and the disposition of bitter dwarf. None of this matters to Darryl and Vanessa, who blindly see past the obvious to welcome young Calvin into their family.

The problem is the audience can’t see past the obvious, and boy is this film obvious. The jokes blaze across the screen on neon billboards, drawing attention to themselves instead of allowing the audience to discover them. The characters may be dumb and stupid, but the filmmakers treat the audience with the same disdain. Do they really expect us to buy into this premise? What could have a been a funny sketch feels like an endurance test.

There’s a commercial on television featuring football player Peyton Manning and other athletes, their heads superimposed on children playing various games. I like the commercial because it celebrates the simplicity of being a child. Quite the opposite with Little Man, which features the same camera tricks but leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. There’s nothing sweet or innocent about Calvin. He’s foul and rude, which makes the whole movie extremely creepy. Why anyone would embrace Calvin as a baby drains the brain, but when he shares a bed with his new mom and dad, you wonder what the writers were thinking.

Guests From HellComedies Deal With Unwelcome AdditionsYou, Me, and Dupree

Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson, Michael Douglas. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Rated PG-13. 108 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $7.00

Little Man

Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Kerry Washington, Tracy Morgan, John Witherspoon. Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Rated PG-13. 97 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $4.00

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