Projections - Movie Reviews


The new zany comedy from Danny DeVito, Duplex, has as its leads Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller, who both have shown a certain aptitude for physical comedy.  But, the director's best character is the oldest one, Eileen Essel, in a film that resembles the one she co-starred with Billy Crystal, Throw Momma From the Train.  The late Anne Ramsey played the title role with some gusto.  This one situated in Brooklyn as Stiller's Alex and Barrymore's Nancy are married and own an old duplex.

But, as regular film-goers know from the trailer's, Essel's Mrs. Connelly turns out to be the neighbor that causes havoc for our happy couple living in a charming new place.  She's the upstairs rent controlled tenant who initially has a sweet naiveté about her but manages to easily bother.  This supposedly frail, carefree lady becomes so demanding that something has to be done.  And the big resuscitating gag seen in the trailer would take any remaining serenity from Alex and Nancy.  Hence, crass humor takes over as they try to get rid of the old lady whose character takes on some of the qualities of the one done by Robin Williams in DeVito's poorly noticed Death to Smoochy.

This screwy, puerile tale of Alex and Nancy isn't the wild comedic domestic romp that one would hope for as Stiller and Barrymore do what they can with the scenes that start to fray their characters at the edges.  Even Nancy's hair stands on end and Alex's face is singed in one absurd conniving moment gone haywire.  But it's the unknown Essel who really makes this small crudely drawn screen fluff little more than a second rate version of The Money Pit.

The little peculiarities that go on upstairs provide some laughs, but only so long because DeVito doesn't have the touch to give more zest as the anachronistic material begins to feel ragged after a while.  Some couples may identify with Alex and Nancy in dealing with the likes of Mrs. Connelly, but the strung out bits damage Duplex almost fatally.


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