What are we to make of Owen Wilson, this most irrepressible and irritating of Hollywood's leading men? Possessor of a surfer-dude airiness, beak-bent snout and seesawing, Texas-fired whine, his box-office popularity defies explanation. He's a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll, a textbook second banana who inexplicably became a headliner.
Because of his peculiar attributes, Wilson has to be placed in precisely the right framework in order to succeed, joined at the joke by a buddy (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jackie Chan) who can accentuate his smarminess while making it seem acceptable. In You, Me and Dupree, the formula is showcased to perfection. It's not enough for Wilson to master the art of crashing weddings; now he's bum-rushing the marriage too.
In doing so, he manages to soften the edges of Matt Dillon, whose searing, Oscar-nominated portrayal of a racist cop in Crash still haunts the memory. Dillon plays sympathetic schlub Carl, who marries Molly (the impossibly charming Kate Hudson) in a glorious Hawaiian ceremony with his lifelong friend Randy Dupree (Wilson) as best man. Upon their return stateside, Dupree reveals that his time away has caused him to lose his job and his apartment. What's a buddy to do but invite his homeless and helpless pal to move in for a while until he gets on his feet, without asking his new bride first?
Gentlemen, pay attention: This is no way to begin a marriage.
This bargain-basement The Man Who Came to Dinner exposes a lot of Wilson's bare ass while he stinks up the bathrooms, jerks off in the living room and sets the couple's home on fire. Yet it doesn't give away all its laughs in the trailers (though it probably couldn't; the very funny masturbation scene and its aftermath never would have made it past the preview police) and Michael Le Sieur's script doesn't meander down predictable paths. After all, it's not every situation comedy that weaves in elements of obsessive paranoia. Carl works for Molly's dad, a zillionaire real estate developer played by Michael Douglas, in an entry-level position with, shall we say, great advancement potential. As the overbearing father-in-law's requests grow more bizarre, however like asking Carl to have a vasectomy so as not to impregnate his darling daughter Carl becomes convinced that his new boss-dad hates him. (Why Douglas would take this cardboard role and then mail in his performance is a complete mystery, but doesn't his latest facelift look wonderful?) Overworked and overwrought, Carl grows certain that Dupree is out to steal his wife, eventually snaps, and nearly chokes Dupree to death.
Depending upon your feelings about Wilson, that doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
Jim McFarlin writes about movies for Metro Times.. Send comments to [email protected].