Stiller's still doing it: Duplex is no surprise

Sept. 30, 2003, midnight | By Kate Selby | 20 years, 8 months ago

If Meet the Parents or There's Something about Mary made you squirm in your theater seat, don't expect a huge change from Ben Stiller in his new movie, Duplex. The largely predictable plot and impossibly uncomfortable scenarios just keep coming from him, despite a completely different setting, storyline and cast.

The basic plot of the movie is that Alex Rose and Nancy Kendrix, played by Stiller and Drew Berrymore, decide to buy an overpriced but exquisite duplex, which has one elderly tenant. This minor drawback turns into a huge problem, and the couple eventually has no choice but to attempt to murder the infuriating old woman who lives upstairs.

This "sweet old lady" (as she is called by the real estate agent who sells Nancy and Alex the house) is the crafty and devious Mrs. Connolly, played by Eileen Essel. Her antics cause her new landlords to stay up all night, loose their jobs, and basically go insane. The only problem with this seemingly delightful plot is the audience might go insane as well, for in Nancy and Alex's failed attempts to kill their tenant, everything that possibly could go wrong predictably does.

The movie begins with a short, quirkily animated segment narrated by director Danny DeVito, which looks like a late night, low budget cartoon. This original touch does add variety to the comedy, but is not followed by any other similar eccentric tactics, save for an accelerated sequence of Alex and Nancy moving into their apartment. The animation looks out of place in a clearly adult comedy.

This script consists of a unified plot but resembles a series of short and humorous but painfully comedic exploits which come to life not because of excellent writing or outstanding acting, but simply because they are so vividly disgusting. For example, Alex gives Mrs. Connolly mouth-to-mouth while Nancy does the compressions. The old woman wakes up with Nancy's hands on her chest and Alex's mouth smeared with her coral lipstick and the chocolate she was choking on and claims sexual assault. The mere thought of this scene will have you thinking twice about that jumbo-size popcorn you just bought.

The police report of sexual assault goes to a certain officer who somehow receives every one of the many calls that she makes to the police department. In some ways, this added to the plot's horribly frustrating nature, but it was so unbelievable that it took away from some of the reality of the comedy. The final straw is when the same officer shows up at the duplex right as Mrs. Connolly is supposed to be being murdered by a hit man that Nancy and Alex hire as a last resort.

Barrymore is the saving grace of the movie, and brings to it a level of sophistication which might make it appealing to audiences over the age of 15. Also, a surprise ending makes the script commendable in that the writers succeeded in having one plot twist that isn't predictable. The other elements of the movie are mediocre.

Overall, Duplex is so frustrating in its predicable but excruciating set ups that it is definitely not worth the $7 to see it in the theaters. Perhaps it could be enjoyable on video, but only if you prepare to be completely grossed out.

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Kate Selby. Kate Selby is a mean, green, story writing machine! She enjoys rock climbing, yoga, volleyball, writing poetry in her psychological "Zen Zone," and running hurdles. Another hobby which Kate enjoys is laughing at herself, an activity which she pursues quite often as she often does … More »

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