Duplex

aka OUR HOUSE (UK)
Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Justin Theroux
Director: Danny DeVito

Poor Ben Stiller. Has any actor had to suffer more for his art? Thanks to a sour face and expert comic timing he has found himself as the undisputed master of a very specific type of film – the comedy of humiliation. So film after film (the most notable examples being There’s SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, MEET THE PARENTS, ALONG CAME POLLY and now OUR HOUSE) we see Ben Stiller getting thoroughly humiliated while looking impossibly glum. The dubious ‘highlights’ of OUR HOUSE include Stiller getting burnt, having to watch an old woman take a bath, having his face drenched in his wife’s vomit and getting shot in the private parts. So it’s business as usual for Stiller then.

OUR HOUSE, directed by Danny DeVito, is about a young couple, Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks (Stiller and Drew Barrymore), who have just brought their first property – an idyllic two-floor apartment in Brooklyn. Of course there has to be a catch, and in this case it is the cantankerous old woman living in the upstairs apartment. Initially, Mrs Connelly (Eileen Essell) appears to be a quiet old lady knocking on death’s door. However, once the young couple have signed on the dotted line and brought the apartment she turns into the tenant from hell. Suddenly she is full of energy, playing her TV at top volume all night and pestering Alex and Nancy incessantly throughout the day for all sorts of odd favours. This is particularly bad news for Alex, a novelist yearning for solitude so that he can meet the impending deadline for his next book. The young couple start hatching plots to get rid of the old lady who is rapidly destroying their lives. Needless to say, each plot goes disastrously wrong, with humorous results

OUR HOUSE is a nicely done skit on that aspect of life, fraught with difficulties, which many of us can identify with – buying a home. I was chuckling throughout, but despite some funny lines and nicely realised set pieces, there is no mistaking the fact that OUR HOUSE is an extremely formulaic offering. It follows the familiar pattern of many Hollywood comedies: a simple high concept plot, fleshed out for 90 minutes with a series of increasingly gross set pieces, before reaching a feel-good ending. Stiller seems to sleepwalk through his part as a miserable stick-in-the-mud, which he has played countless times before.

Director Danny DeVito has a fascinating career behind him as an actor, producer and director. His directorial features, including THE WAR OF THE ROSES and THROW MOMMA OFF THE TRAIN, have tended to be rather good, being surprisingly sharp and witty. In contrast, OUR HOUSE seems to be completely lacking in ambition and succeeds only in being distinctly run of the mill. It’s as if DeVito, sensing a vogue for this type of gross comedy at the moment, has made OUR HOUSE to cash in and make a quick buck. Go and see this only if you are in an undemanding mood.

3 out of 6 stars

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