BY LYNN LEE
If you loved Meet the Parents, you’ll probably like Duplex, which is based on the same brand of slapstick humor and stars Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore.
The movie begins with Alex Rose (Stiller) and his wife Nancy Kendricks (Barrymore) looking for their dream house. After viewing a huge duplex in Brooklyn, they are convinced that they’ve found it. The apartment appears to be a great bargain, with one small catch. On the second floor lives an elderly rent-controlled tenant, Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essel), but since she appears on the verge of death when they first meet her, Alex and Nancy assume that in no time the entire apartment will be theirs.
Upon moving in, the couple discovers that Mrs. Connelly is not only in much improved health, but is also an incredible annoyance. She interrupts Alex, a writer who works at home, all day long with requests for repairs, blasts her television all through the night, and then comments to Nancy about how Alex naps all day long instead of working on his novel.
Alex and Nancy become desperate to have the whole apartment to themselves. After Mrs. Connelly turns down their offer to pay her to move out of the apartment, her incessant nagging eventually drives the couple to contemplate murderous thoughts more and more seriously. As the movie progresses and the homicidal impulses are very nearly realized on several occasions, the movie closely resembles the style of Meet the Parents. The viewer knows that the couple’s situation can only continue to get worse and it becomes almost painful to watch the ridiculous things that befall them.
For what it is, Duplex was entertaining and even had some interesting twists. Stiller’s performance is the highlight of the movie, although this movie is definitely not his best work. True to form, he has several moments where he freaks out and throws a fit, but the tantrums are less exaggerated than in some of his funnier movies. Barrymore is also funny but the quirkiness that often distinguishes her characters and makes them interesting wasn’t used much in her portrayal of Nancy. Essel, a newcomer to film, is very enjoyable.
Directed by Danny DeVito, the film is often reminiscent of The Money Pit except that Stiller and Barrymore’s characters struggle to live with their elderly neighbor while Tom Hanks and Shelley Long’s characters dealt with neverending problematic home repairs. What is great about both movies is that while dealing with a common and possibly predictable theme, both movies incorporate memorable and original moments of hilarity. If you enjoyed the collapse of the stairs and much of the rest of the house in The Money Pit, you will greatly enjoy Stiller’s use of “The Clapper” in Duplex.
Duplex is a great movie to see if you want to take your mind off OCI interviewing. Its slapstick humor provides a perfect, and relatively mindless, break. If you don’t go to the movies often, this movie is definitely worth at least a rental.