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Bams' review of


Duplex (2003)
Rated PG-13; running time 87 minutes
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Genre: Comedy
Seen at: Eastwood Neighborhood Cinema Group (Lansing, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Larry Doyle
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Cast: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Wisdom, James Remar

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

Back in our salad days, my husband and I lived as downstairs tenants in a duplex that, like Duplex, had an Upstairs Tenant From Hell. Our UTFH, Kika (last name withheld in case he ever wakes from his drug-induced haze, miraculously discovers The Internet, somehow stumbles upon 3BC, and tries to find out where we now live), had a habit of asking us for plastic bread bags from which to sniff glue, his drug of choice. This was but one of sterile, toothless Kika's oft-expressed charms.

Since we, fortunately, only rented instead of owned the duplex, we were finally able to escape Kika's madness with only minimal psychic damage resulting from the experience. Though there were times when I wished Kika would've suffocated himself with one of those plastic bags, I find it hard to believe that supposedly smart people could be led to do such stupid things, as did the characters in Duplex. Or, for that matter, director Danny DeVito.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
Alex (Ben Stiller) and Nancy (Drew Barrymore) are a newlywed yuppie couple trying to get their piece of the pie. Instead of movin' on up to the East Side, to a deeluxe apartment in the...sorry, drifted for a second...they want to own a house somewhere in greater New York City. With the help of real estate agent Kenneth (Harvey Fierstein), they find a great duplex to settle into. One problem: the duplex comes complete with with Wacky, Rent-Controlled Upstairs Tenant From Hell, the elderly Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essell). And you know what happens when Yuppie Newlywed Couple meets Wacky, Rent-Controlled Upstairs Tenant From Hell, don'cha? You guessed it: Wackiness Ensues.

I'm convinced that critic Jon Popick and I were The Only Ones who liked DeVito's previous effort, Death To Smoochy, a dark comedy so head-and-shoulders smarter and better than Duplex, that I find it hard to believe they were both done by the same director. Duplex suffers most from the look-alike comparison between DeVito's other works, though, from the vastly underrated War Of The Roses (which I can't even find on DVD, for cryin' out loud), to the lame and far too similar Throw Momma From The Train. And worse: the old lady here is too reminiscent (though not nearly as funny) as Robin Williams' title character in Mrs. Doubtfire.

Not that Duplex is completely DeVito's cross to bear. I remember DeVito's Roses fondly, and wonder what stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, in their earlier days, could've done with Alex and Nancy in Duplex. Not much, I'd imagine; I can't picture them lending themselves to this effort, though if anyone had to do it, I guess Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore made sense. Stiller especially seems suited for "Watch how I react to this silly situation!" movie sitcoms, and he had his chuckle-worthy moments. But I felt embarrassed for Barrymore and Robert Wisdom (as Officer Dan), and all they had to suffer at the hands of DeVito and writer Larry Doyle. "Embarrassed", though, is not the word I'd use for how I felt about the "payoff" at the end of the movie; "ready to reach through the screen and choke DeVito for trying to feed us such unmitigated crap", now that's more like it.

I know most of my fellow reviewers are frothing at the mouth over Eileen Essell as Mrs. Connelly, but for me, her character is too meshed with all the things that are wrong with Duplex, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't jump on Essell's bandwagon. I hope Essell is enjoying her spot in the sunlight, however; after all, how many older actresses can say they had such a substantial role in a mainstream Hollywood movie these days?

In the end, "overly derivative" is the call of the day for Duplex. "Poorly written, unfunny characters doing dumb, completely unrealistic things" also fits. My Disbelief got a tension headache from being Suspended higher than it had any right to be.

Apply rent control to Duplex: wait and spend your money on the video rental release.

DUPLEX:   yellow

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed through 9/26/03):

Bams' reviews:
Duplex | Under The Tuscan Sun

The Diva's reviews:
The Rundown

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