It’s often said that Ben Stiller only plays Ben Stiller. Drew Barrymore is often accused of the same. So how good can a movie be with the two of them as the stars?
First, lets get this out of the way: War of the Roses!Throw Momma From the Train! War of the Roses! Throw Momma From the Train!
Good. Now that we’ve gotten the obvious references that other critics have continued to bring up out of the way, let’s discuss Duplex; a Danny DeVito directed comedy starring Stiller and Barrymore as Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks: the new owners of the titular Duplex. It has three fireplaces, beautiful hardwood floors, an affordable price, and the sweet old Mrs. Connelly living in the upper floor rent-controlled apartment. When the sweet old lady (Eileen Essel) stops being so sweet and instead turns into a neighbor’s worst nightmare, the owners have to find a way to get rid of her, and as she can’t be kicked out, this means resorting to drastic measures including possibly murdering the old bat.
Stiller and Barrymore do basically play themselves in this movie. Sadly their character’s personalities are very similar to how you’ve seen the actors in other films. However, it works for them in Duplex. Both are able to play off each other fairly well, and Stiller’s overly dramatic reactions play particularly well off Essel’s sweet yet demonic old lady. Character actors Harvey Fierstein and Wallace Shawn both appear briefly in the movie, as a real estate agent and Barrymore’s boss respectively. Perhaps this was an aspect of the film that should have been played up in advertising - given their extensive careers, I would wager the two of them have a more faithful following then Stiller and Barrymore.
Unfortunately I think a lot of Duplex’s shortcomings come from its advertising, taking what looked like funny moments and pulling them out of context. Moments that made me wince in the trailer actually flowed well through the movie. As the story develops you start to feel sympathetic for Rose and Kendricks and their plight against the evil Mrs. Connelly, although you never feel completely sorry for them since they aren’t exactly the nicest couple either. The comparisons to DeVito’s War of the Roses or Throw Momma can’t exactly be denied, but they aren’t necessarily a bad thing either. Throw Momma was a funny movie, and Duplex is a much better movie than War of the Roses. One could almost think Duplex is DeVito’s attempt to save some of the gags he had planned for other films, but didn’t get to use. The movie does resort to unnecessary bathroom humor in a couple of places, but all in all the story works.
Well, this is where critics will be justified in bashing Duplex. This is practically a bare bones disk release, with a whopping three deleted scenes (including the beginning of a different ending) and a behind-the-scenes bit of raw footage. Yup, that’s it. Three stinkin’ deleted scenes, which seem fairly pointless, and less then five minutes of behind the scenes raw footage. It’s not even a documentary, or interviews with the cast, or a cool story being told. It’s raw footage! There isn’t even a trailer for the movie on it, although there are trailers for some of Miramax’s other films. It’s a good thing the transfer on the movie looks good, otherwise there would be no reason for a DVD to even exist. So the bottom line is that Duplex is not a bad movie. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining enough to be worth a peek. However since the DVD release itself is less than mediocre, I recommend sneaking that peek on cable or renting the movie. It’s not a release worthy of a place in your permanent collection.