Friday, July 14, 2006


Is there anything more depressing than a movie like You, Me And Dupree?

Well, yeah, the Bush presidency and Israel's two-pronged asssault on despised neighbors come to mind. I acknowledge that these depress me, and now move on.

So okay, for people who love movies, is there anything more depressing than You, Me And Dupree? Not that the movie is in and of itself any worse than any other piece of Hollywood product, but why is Owen Wilson doing this to himself?

Wilson is written about in the press as a member of a sort of Guy's Guy collective of comedic performers, whose frat brothers include the likes of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Wilson's brother, Luke. Can you think of a movie most of these guys have made recently that was worthwhile? Yeah, me neither.

What's sad is, all these guys are massively talented. Despite several hits, Stiller has yet to show on the big screen a fraction of the genius he brought to his late, lamented TV program, The Ben Stiller Show, which was regularly fall-on-the-floor funny. Vaughn was a memorably creepy Norman Bates in the otherwise misguided remake of Psycho. Black was lucky in that his only substantial hit, School Of Rock, was a pretty good movie, but he's already showing signs of falling into easy, lazy habits. As for the Wilson boys, Luke was absolutely heartbreaking in The Royal Tenenbaums, a movie co-written by Owen. In fact, Owen co-wrote three films with director Wes Anderson, including the wonderful Rushmore. Honestly, if you're capable of something like that, why would you waste your time doing shit like You, Me And Dupree?

Most of the good work these actors have done seems to be receding into the past. Of this bunch, only Ferrell seems to even be trying these days. True, his co-starring roles in The Producers and Woody Allen's underrated Melinda And Melinda didn't get a lot of attention, but they showed a willingness to diversify, to not just appear in lazy comedies made by your friends. (Of course, his upcoming Talladega Nights looks to be just that sort of movie, but if it's anything like Ferrell's Anchorman, it will have one advantage over most current comedies: it will actually be funny.)

What I don't understand is, why this is happening. In earlier eras, the level of success these guys have had would propel actors to take a few risks, to try new things and work with challenging material and strong collaborators. Instead, they tend to work with the usual suspects, supporting actors like Paul Rudd or Seth Rogan or Jason Bateman (all of whom are usually funnier than the leads) and maladroit directors like Jay Roach or David Dobkin, who can be counted on to supply absolutely no style or anything resembling a point of view.

That's the problem. These actors are so successful, they oversee every aspect of the movies they appear in, and they choose to appear in crap. There are brilliant comedic filmmakers working these days, like Joel and Ethan Coen, Alexander Payne and Noah Baumbach, but they make movies their own ways. If Vince Vaughn wanted play one of Alexander Payne's sad-sack protagonists, he'd have to resist his crowd-pleasing mannerisms and be willing to be a character...but he could do it. Ben Stiller could easily play a neurotic urbanite for Noah Baumbach, as long as he was willing to step outside his comfort zone.

It probably won't happen, though. Which is frustrating, because all of these guys are capable of doing great things. If only they'd break out of their little fraternity, which is starting to resemble a circle jerk, and take a look at how shitty their recent work really is, maybe they'd learn. Here's a hint, guys: If your agent sends you a script like You, Me And Dupree, first fire the agent. Then destroy all copies of the script, so it can't happen to anyone else.