The best thing one can say about Duplex is also the worst thing one can say about it. It is bland. It has its minor moments, which saves it from being horrible, but it is also missing the all-out hilarity or complete lack of compassion necessary to make it succeed. After all, Duplex is a black comedy. How else can one explain a movie where the two leads plot to kill an old woman? Granted, this little old lady is channeling Satan, but still, to enjoy Duplex, one needs to suspend their sense of morals. The duplex in question is the new property of Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks. Alex (Ben Stiller, Orange County, The Royal Tenenbaums) is an author who looks forward to the peace and quiet to finish his second book, and Nancy (Drew Barrymore, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) works for a magazine.

One of the reasons they love their new duplex so much is because it has two stories. They have a tenant upstairs, the elderly Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essel, Ali G in da House). They are hoping that she will eventually move out so they can covert it to a nursery for their future children. When they were looking at the place, Mrs. Connelly seemed to be the perfect little old lady. Things changed once they moved in. First, they discover that she has rent control, and that she doesn't want to move out. Things slowly get worse. Mrs. Connelly continually comes down to ask Alex for help in chores, even though the deadline for his novel is looming. She watches television insanely loud every night, and it is conveniently located above Alex and Nancy's bedroom.

Eventually, things escalate to a full-scale mini war. Alex and Nancy do everything they can to refrain from killing Mrs. Connelly, and they cannot figure out if she's really like this or genuinely has it in for them. One problem is that Stiller and Barrymore are playing roles that they are familiar with. Stiller is the normal guy who slowly goes insane with rage, and Barrymore is the nice girl. It's not bad to play similar roles, but Larry Doyle and John Hamburg's (Zoolander, Meet the Parents) script doesn't give them anything new to work with.

For director Danny Devito (Death to Smoochy, Matilda), this is also familiar territory. As a director, he seems to enjoy these black comedies, but everything here feels so contrived. Yeah, parts are funny, but it feels like Doyle and Hamburg thought of a series of barely related jokes and then strung them together with a barely there plot. Because Devito and company fail to go all out in their nastiness, Alex and Nancy's mean-spiritedness towards the evil Mrs. Connelly actually seems a little mean. Yes, people eventually also wish for her death in a painful manner, but the same goes for Duplex. The one truly grating element is the ending. Movies really need to stop ending movies the same way, especially when the main character is an author, who usually has some sort of writer's block.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 27 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and some violence.

Back to Movies