Posted March 2, 2004
Perhaps better-titled "Throw Momma From The Duplex," it appears Danny DeVito is mining past movie experiences to create new material. Thus Duplex is born from recycled DeVito dialogues and reworked Ben Stiller stupidity.Opening with a far too long animation that pokes fun of finding the right combination of urban centralization versus price in a real estate purchase, our cash-strapped newlywed couple, Alex (Stiller) and Nancy (Drew Barrymore), finally settle on a surprisingly nice Brooklyn duplex. Considering their supposed financial woes, Brooklyn is hardly a bargain--especially for something that looks this good. That should have been their first warning. The second alarm should have gone off when the real estate agent takes them to meet their sole tenant, Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essell). The elderly lady claims she's too sick to have the new owners in to look at her suite. Obviously suffering from severe impulsive purchase syndrome and overcome with the beautiful wood trimmings, the happy couple signs for the purchase anyway-- with the inside hope their renter won't live all that long. Happy to finally have a quiet place to work on his novel, Alex and Nancy settle in for their first night together. But peaceful bliss is short lived when Mrs. Connelly begins watching her television. After a night's worth of Hawaii Five-O reruns, the new owners begin the long painful process of first trying to adapt to Mrs. Connelly, then trying to get Mrs. Connelly to adapt to them. In short order, their careers (and most of their home) are destroyed leaving them desperate for a simple solution: Hire a hit man. For most of us who have experienced shared housing, the first few scenes of Duplex provide comic depictions, which are exaggerated, but still plausible. So is Stiller's initial visit with Essell (who provides an incredible performance), where she offers him Bugles from what is likely a pre-UPC coded box and a dip with a 1997 Best Before date. But once we've moved into this film and are just getting comfortable, the sincerity of the humor begins to fade and peels away to reveal the typical crutches writers resort to in an attempt to get a laugh: Over-the-top gags dwelling on grossities and sexual circumstances (including Mrs. Connelly finding sensual pleasures in the bathtub). At this point, Stiller and Barrymore's characters become far too inept to allow us to believe they could function in the complex lives this movie places them in. Plastered with moderate and mild profanities and an overall theme of distrust and revenge, this is hardly a home you'll want to bring your family to.