The early 2000s brought with them a wave of mainstream comedies that were just edgy enough to be still considered mainstream. And Ben Stiller was in a lot of them. I’m talking about movies like Meet the Parents, Zoolander, and, one of my favorites, Along Came Polly. All of these movies feature familiar themes, relatable characters, and even more relatable situations. Duplex is a breezy comedy about a couple who move into an apartment of their dreams only to realize they’ve got a roommate from hell. Or is she a neighbor from hell, I’m not quite sure about the terminology here.
Duplex is not as good as those I mentioned above but it sure is worth watching. Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore were great as the likable couple but Eileen Essell stole the show as annoying Mrs. Connelly. Since most of the story is happening in the eponymous duplex, the whole movie has a very personal feel. I think they were going for this little easygoing comedy vibe from the get-go. I also like how they were willing to go places almost turning Duplex into a black comedy. Some of the jokes and gags are quite brutal but that just makes them even funnier.
This was done to compensate for the limited scope of the story. It’s funny how at the time I didn’t even notice that this is a movie about a wealthy young white couple buying their dream home in New York. And I’ll try to look the other way today as well. You see, I don’t have to be my cynical self all the time. Plus, this is such a charming little movie that it’s much easier to gloss over these things. Moreover, I think we all had some bad experiences with neighbors at one point in our lives. I know I sure did as the guy below me was a serial killer type of a character complete with mommy issues.
Alex and Nancy are looking for their dream apartment but the search is not going too well. All the places are either too pricey or too far away. And then they stumble upon the perfect apartment right in the center of Brooklyn. There’s only one catch, the apartment is actually a duplex which means they have a neighbor living on the top floor. And that neighbor is Mrs. Connelly, a sweet little Irish lady who seems to be 100 years old. So, our young couple decide to move in thinking that the old bat is going to croak soon. However, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. And soon, life in their dream apartment is going to turn into a nightmare.
Pacey and short (90 minutes), Duplex is one of those movies you’ll be able to finish in one go. No matter when you play them. The director is none other than Danny DeVito. Yes, the actor Danny DeVito who already made a couple of good movies like The War of the Roses and Hoffa. He has a knack for perfectly timing these explosive gags. Something you’ll notice within the opening ten minutes. And there will be quite of few deliciously disgusting slapstick jokes I absolutely loved.
As soon as you start thinking this is getting a bit boring and predictable, Duplex kicks you in the guts with one of those. It’s much more subversive than the 2014 movie Neighbors which features a similar kind of plot. Finally, I do have to mention the fact that people either love or hate this movie. To me, it was entertaining enough and I loved the gross-out bits, something I always appreciate in comedies. Now, if there was a shitting scene, we would be talking about a much better movie.
Director: Danny DeVito
Writer: Larry Doyle
Cast: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Justin Theroux, James Remar, Wallace Shawn
Fun Facts: Despite the $40 million budget, Duplex went on to make just half that, $20 million, at the box office.