- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

Owen Wilson’s character in “You, Me and Dupree” sets his pal’s home ablaze before nearly wrecking the man’s marriage.

What are best friends for?

Dupree sure is a charmer, especially with Mr. Wilson playing the titular towhead.

The actor makes us forgive the film’s sluggish setup and anchors its swerve toward a serious look at marriage.

Not bad for an actor riffing from the Kato Kaelin playbook.

Mr. Wilson’s Dupree is the best friend of Carl (Matt Dillon), a lifelong pal about to marry Molly (Kate Hudson).

The wedding goes off more or less as planned, but before the two can settle into marital bliss, Dupree comes knocking.

He lost his job — and his home — and needs a place to crash.

Carl offers him their couch, and Dupree happily obliges.

The trio get off to a rough start. Dupree storms into their bedroom to use the couple’s toilet just when they’re about to get amorous. The childlike Dupree turns the couple’s house into a sports bar so the local boys can watch the big game.

Molly quickly loses patience with their houseguest but can’t muster the anger to kick him out.

Instead, she growls at Carl, who grows disillusioned with Dupree for different reasons. Entertaining a third wheel means less energy for fighting his boss (Michael Douglas), who happens to be Molly’s father and a wizard at emasculating his employees.

So far, so middling. The few comic-set pieces attempted in “Dupree’s” first half are more frenetic than funny, and the film seems destined to waste the talents of all involved.

Then, “Dupree” tries something a little different. Our man Dupree sidles up to Molly, platonically of course, and the film finds its footing. The same doesn’t hold true for Mr. Dillon. The actor’s transformation from understanding straight man to harried comic lead isn’t smooth or convincing. Blame first-time screenwriter Michael Le Sieur, who nonetheless is confident enough to build humor through characters as well as the occasional pratfall.

“Dupree” works best with the smaller moments, like Dupree playing street games with the neighborhood kids or filling in for Carl at a school’s career day.

Miss Hudson, whose can’t-miss label had begun to peel and fray, finds more than just the flummoxed wife beneath her role, and the film needs every drop of her earthy appeal.

“Dupree” takes a wayward turn when it posits Mr. Wilson’s character as a new-age motivational speaker. It’s the sort of stunt you might find in a sequel, and while there are smiles aplenty in “Dupree,” a sequel is the last thing “You, Me” or anyone else would need to see.

**

TITLE: “You, Me and Dupree”

RATING: PG-13 (Sexual humor and references, comic violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Written by Michael Le Sieur. Produced by Owen Wilson, Scott Stuber and Mary Parent.

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

WEB SITE: www.youmeanddupree.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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