During some movies, audiences laugh with a polite little “Isn’t that cute” titter. . . rather analogous to a golf clap. With other movies, however, they give it the full howl, guffaw, cackle, or screech, usually reserved for family members at home. DUPLEX starts with the titters and quickly moves to the guffaw zone.
Directed by actor Danny DeVito (THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN), the story is about Alex and Nancy, played by Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore. They are a young, childless couple that’s trying to find an affordable home in New York City. A real estate agent tells them he’s reserved his best listing for them, a wonderful, eclectic duplex in Brooklyn. The only, ah, ever-so-small consideration is that there is a quiet, sickly, old woman that lives upstairs, and she has a legal right to stay as a tenant for as long as she lives. The couple decides that it’s fine to have the woman upstairs. After all, she’s got to be 100 years old, and surely she’ll die at any moment. Besides, how hard could she be?
Not one week after the new owners have settled in downstairs does old Mrs. Connelly come tottering down, looking disappointingly spry and healthy, to ask Alex to run a number of errands for her and do several fix-up projects in her flat. Alex doesn’t mind helping a neighbor, of course, so he obliges the old woman by taking her grocery shopping and to the pharmacy, among other errands. The only problem is that Alex is a writer and has to have his novel to his publisher (Swoozie Kurtz) in a couple weeks. Nancy, meanwhile, is at work, oblivious to the fact that her husband has become errand boy to the elderly renter.
On another front, Alex and Nancy find out that their best friends have some wonderful news. The guy’s new novel is out and looks like it will be a bit hit, AND his wife, a skinny model-looking rail, is four months pregnant with their first child. Alex and Nancy try to be completely excited and not one bit jealous for their dear friends. Later, they resolve to try for their own baby and to hurry up and get the novel finished.
A huge problem for both of these actions, however, is the fact that Mrs. Connelly falls asleep to the television blaring all night – very loudly – in the room right above Alex and Nancy’s bedroom. Thus, Alex is getting no sleep at night. Alex tries to get around the problem by sneaking upstairs and installing an on/off clapper system that turns the TV off with two claps. The problem is that he accidentally leaves the box upstairs, with the instructions. Mrs. Connelly is delighted and immediately claps the TV back on whenever Alex claps it off.
As Mrs. Connelly becomes increasingly irritating with her pet parrot, her loud TV, her incessant demands for household and errands help, and her meddling ways and goofy advice, the young couple decides that it is truly time for her to die. . . yes, die! They construct elaborate and hilarious schemes to kill their tenant, but she naively eludes their every attempt. The woman calls the neighborhood policeman at every turn to complain about Alex and Nancy, and he gets more and more furious, writing them tickets and collecting huge fines for their numerous supposed offenses against Mrs. Connelly.
Finally, it’s time for radical action. Alex’s writer friend knows a hit man who also happens to be a pornographer, so Alex and Nancy hire him to do the dirty deed and bump off the old bat. A surprising twist at the end puts a hilarious spin on the whole wretched deal.
DUPLEX is a silly, funny movie on the order of THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, an earlier Danny DeVito film. Mr. DeVito seems to have a scary mother issue for which he needs some good biblical counseling, but, nevertheless, he apparently has a talent for making zany “mom-must-die” movies. Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller were obviously having a blast filming the movie, as they had to turn their heads away several times in order not to laugh. The direction is good, the story is fun, and the movie will likely do well at the box office.
Regrettably, however, the filmmakers included some foul language and sexual innuendo to obtain a PG-13 rating. The old woman has a naïve-sounding way of turning some things into sexual jokes, apparently unintentionally, rather on the order of the old comedian Benny Hill. There are also some vulgar references to one of the pornographer’s videos. Though much of this content will go over the heads of children, the movie cannot be recommended for children under 14.
The comedic violence includes a man getting shot with a crossbow, people falling through rotten floors, and mild fist fights. The movie has some scatological humor, including the couple cozying up to a sneezing, sick man in order to catch his virus and give it to the old lady, a woman eating a possible rat pellet, a man vomiting with the parrot eating the vomit, and so forth. The beginnings of a veiled sex scene by the fire are shown, but without any nudity or overt sexual portrayals.
Audiences certainly appreciate filmmakers who give weary, hard-working people a comedic lift, but MOVIEGUIDE® encourages them to do so in increasingly creative ways that allow entire families to join in on the fun without having to cringe during moments of questionable humor. DUPLEX does not fit those family film standards.
Please address your comments to:
Bob and Harvey Weinstein
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (323) 822-4100 and (212) 941-3800
Fax: (212) 941-3846
SUMMARY: The story of DUPLEX focuses on a young couple that has a chance to move into a gorgeous duplex in the perfect New York neighborhood, but all they have to do is bump off the irritating tenant, a little old lady, who ruins their peaceful home. Filled with zany humor, DUPLEX has too many offensive elements for moral family audiences – such as some foul language, off-color joking, and a murder plot.
(PaPa, B, LL, VV, S, N, A, D, M) Relativistic, pagan worldview, though presented in a comedic style, with couple gradually deciding that an irritating woman must be killed, trying themselves, and finally hiring a hit man, with some discussion of heaven and the need to do the right thing and be a moral person; 14 obscenities, five light profanities ("Oh my God"), and some scatological humor elements such as vomiting, passing gas joke, and eating possible rat pellet; solid comedic violence includes people falling through rotten floor, man hit by crossbow, fist fight between couple, attempted murder, and fire; married couple shown in beginning stages of sex and, when finished, seeing old woman watching through stained glass window, but nothing shown overtly, some veiled sexual innuendo with old woman apparently not realizing what she's saying, references to pornographer's video, and allusion to masturbation; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, cheating, and attempted murder.