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BUENA VISTA

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Danny DeVito
Cast:
Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essel, Harvey Fierstein, Justin Theroux, James Remar, Robert Wisdom, Swoosie Kurtz
Writing Credits:
Larry Doyle

Tagline:
Alex and Nancy finally found their dream home ... And then they moved in.

Synopsis:
Hollywood favorites Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents) and Drew Barrymore (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Never Been Kissed) lead a star-studded cast in this darkly hillarious comedy where one wrong move turns out to be a monumental mistake! Young and vibrant New Yorkers Alex (Stiller) and Nancy (Barrymore) have just found the perfect place to settle down and share a bright future. But their new home comes with a permanent fixture they didn't expect: an obnoxious elderly tenant who won't move out and refuses to die! Pushed to the edge of insanity as their dream home turns into a nightnmare, it's only a matter of time before Alex and Nancy begin to entertain some truly sinister solutions to their problem!

Box Office:
Budget
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.617 million on 2189 screens.
Domestic Gross
$9.652 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/2/2004

Bonus:
• Behind the Scenes Special
• Deleted Scenes
• Sneak Peeks


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RELATED REVIEWS


Duplex (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2004)

Ben Stiller? Popular actor. Drew Barrymore? Popular actress? Duplex? Not a popular movie. The flick paired those two stars with moderately successful director Danny De Vito but failed to gain an audience. The movie earned a paltry $9 million at the box office and quickly vanished from the public eye.

Alex (Stiller) and Nancy (Barrymore) decide to settle down and buy a home. Their agent Kenneth (Harvey Fierstein) finds them a duplex in Brooklyn. It comes with a catch: a tenant named Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essell) who lives on the second floor. Alex resists the place for a number of reasons, but Nancy seems smitten and pushes him to get it.

Eventually he agrees and they snag the place. When there, they get to know Mrs. Connelly and learn more about the old widow. Since Alex works at home as a writer, he encounters her a lot – much more than he’d like. She frequently pesters him for various apartment-related issues as well as personal assistance. She also blasts her TV loudly and invites over a ladies’ band to practice. All of these elements make life and work increasingly difficult for Alex and Nancy. This leads them to embrace increasingly desperate measures to evict the old lady from their lives.

Duplex suffers from a serious case of “been there, done that”. The movie feels awfully tired and stale, as we go through an escalating series of challenges and torments that afflict the young couple. Much of the time, the movie comes across as Farrelly brothers lite, as De Vito pours on the wacky slapstick. We see shenanigans like Mrs. Connelly pleasuring herself in the bathtub, as well as Alex’s violent attempts at CPR and a broad move to give her mouth-to-mouth. These parts seem like outtakes from Stiller’s hit There’s Something About Mary.

Actually, De Vito self-plagiarizes as well. As the protagonists attempt to rid themselves of a problematic elderly lady, we get distinct echoes of Throw Momma From the Train. In fact, he even depicts occasional imaginary sequences in which Alex and Nancy off the old bag in violent ways.

All these factors make Duplex feel like little more than an uninspired mélange of prior successes. It creates a fairly predictable and bland “neighbor from hell” tale, and the ways that matters escalate never threaten to become lively or amusing. I could count the number of chuckles provoked by this flick on one finger – I leave it to you to guess which digit to choose. Instead, we get a mix of gags that vary from bland to revolting, such as one in which Nancy vomits on Alex’s head and we watch it in all its unpleasant glory.

It doesn’t help that Stiller and Barrymore display very little chemistry. Frankly, they feel detached from each other and often don’t seem like they connect. Separately, they can be likable and charming, but here they do little more than sleepwalk through the uninspired tale.

It doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t even bother to attempt any form of character or personality before it launches right into the slapstick. We never get a feel for any of the participants as people; they’re just bland archetypes of the young couple, and they exist for us to see the old lady inadvertently torture them.

Ultimately, Duplex feels like a waste of talent. It includes quite a few good people, but the movie itself falls almost totally flat. This makes two straight De Vito flicks to suffer from that fate, as 2002’s Death to Smoochy also misused its cast. Maybe someday De Vito will recover, but not today.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Duplex appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though the image boasted many positives, some nagging concerns made it look less than stellar.

Sharpness came across strongly. The movie appeared nicely distinct and accurate. I noticed no signs of softness during this crisp and detailed picture. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no issues, but I did detect some light edge enhancement at times. Source defects virtually n problems. However, the picture displayed some moderate graininess that seemed heavier than I’d expect. Much of the movie passed without incident, but a few sequences appeared slightly flawed in this regard.

Much of the film demonstrated a fairly natural but subdued palette. The film didn’t often offer hues that could shine, but they consistently seemed solid. The colors were firm and distinctive, without any kinds of problems. Black levels appeared reasonably dense and deep, though they looked a little muddy at times. In addition, low-light shots could be somewhat murky on occasion. Those images mostly appeared concise, but a few of them seemed less than stellar. Overall, Duplex looked fine but not spectacular.

Most comedies don’t make much use of the audio possibilities, and that held true for Duplex. The flick’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed acceptable but nothing more. Unsurprisingly, the soundfield heavily focused on the front speakers. From those, I heard decent stereo imaging for the music, and effects also helped create a reasonably good sense of environment. Elements appeared logically placed and they blended together accurately. The surrounds failed to display much activity, at least until the last act. When Mrs. Connelly got a home theater, the track kicked my HT to action nicely. A thunderstorm and a few of the violent sequences also used the rears, but Mrs. Connelly’s HT was really the only one that brought those speakers to life.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech remained consistently tight and natural, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Effects played a minor role and were acceptably distinctive. They featured good range when necessary and seemed clean. Music was also well rendered, with smooth highs and moderate lows. Nothing here stood out, but the audio was satisfactory for this sort of flick.

Though Duplex comes as a two-disc set, it does so mostly to let the separate versions of the film have room to breath. The movie certainly doesn’t include much in the way of supplements. The Behind the Scenes Special runs a mere four minutes. It depicts a mix of behind the scenes footage plus some on-the-set comments from Barrymore, Stiller, and Fierstein. It’s short and superficial but moderately interesting.

The three Deleted Scenes last a total of three minutes, two seconds. The first two simply extend existing segments and do nothing more than make the flick more tedious. The third depicts an alternate ending that seems a little more cynical than the existing one.

The Sneak Peeks area offers a promo for Miramax Home Entertainment. No trailer for Duplex itself appears.

A tired and uninspired gross-out comedy, Duplex suffers from a serious lack of entertainment value. It misuses its cast badly and fails to generate anything other than groans and winces. The DVD presents decent but fairly average picture and sound plus only a couple minor supplements. I’m all for black comedies, but not when they leave out all the actual comedy. Skip this clunker.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3809 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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