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DUPLEX

A materialistic couple lands the Brooklyn brownstone of their yuppie dreams. One drawback: they are saddled with an elderly tenant who refuses to vacate the top floor. Should they act on their impulse and lead the tenacious senior not so gently into the night?

CAST: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Justin Theroux, Robert Wisdom, Amber Valletta, James Remar, Wallace Shawn, Swoosie Kurtz

DIRECTOR: Danny DeVito

"In ‘Duplex,’ director Danny DeVito returns to the pitch-black comedy of ‘Throw Momma From the Train’ and ‘The War of the Roses’…‘Duplex’ revisits many of the same elements of those earlier, better pictures, from its cheerfully un-p.c. loathing of the aged to its depiction of a dream home turned into a battleground. It's a mean little movie, but it's also thin and repetitive, a premise in search of a story. Too many of the jokes hinge on watching this seemingly sweet and harmless old lady wreck the couple's lives until they have no other recourse but to, well, kill her.…‘Duplex’ gets darker and sicker as it goes along, but it's a sign of desperation when DeVito starts doling out the Farrelly Brothers-style gross-outs. Flinging vomit, snot and other assorted substances on the faces of his stars is always good for a laugh, but it's nothing to be proud of." --Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

"… a refreshingly mean-spirited gothic real estate comedy…‘Duplex’ dabbles in vomit, flatulence and unintentional intergenerational touching, but Mr. DeVito's specialty is the urge to homicide that lurks in the heart of otherwise civilized people and that is touched off when petty annoyances become intolerable…Sometimes Mr. DeVito has gone too far, pushing black humor unnervingly close to the abyss of ultimate darkness. But the unpleasantness in ‘Duplex’ is handled deftly enough to keep the audience's queasiness from turning into disgust. The script, by Larry Doyle, a former writer and producer for ‘The Simpsons,’ is dexterous and tight, and its humor is both sharp and double-edged." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"…it's hard to think of a black comedy that backs off from its diabolical urges the way this one does. DeVito seems to have merely commissioned a predictable script that combines the two unhappiest comedies he's directed. The writing grafts the quasi seniorphobia of "Throw Momma From the Train" onto the lethal house skirmishes in "The War of the Roses." The result is a cheap and cloying contraption that doesn't know when to stop smirking… The movie's not exactly optimistic -- it's often quite mean, in fact, but witlessly so. A nasty thriller lurks amid the pratfalls and screwballing: What, for instance, are we to make of Mrs. Connelly's peering in on a lovemaking Alex and Nancy?" --Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

"This rather rickety comedy boasts a solid base, though sadly, too much of it has been plastered over with moldy jokes and leaky plot devices…DeVito seems eager to attack the material head-on, and the film gets off to a strong, darkly farcical start. But then he loses confidence -- whether in himself or the audience, it's impossible to say -- and falls back on that ally of desperation: the gross-out gag. So he goes where so many have gone before, into the realm of (sigh) vomit jokes, scatological humor and, of course, the always-reliable grotesquery of decrepit old ladies." --Elizabeth Weitzman, The New York Daily News

"A stale, nonsensical comedy in which Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, and director Danny DeVito manage to get nearly everything about New York wrong. How corny is it? They’re still making cracks about the Clapper and ‘Riverdance.’" --Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine

"For those who are tired of coming home from work, grabbing the remote, flopping in a chair and spending a good chunk of the evening watching an anemic sitcom, ‘Duplex’ provides a golden opportunity: the chance to do the same thing after leaving the house and paying 10 bucks…‘Duplex’ confirms the suspicion among many of us that today's mainstream movies are simply vehicles for selling other things -- in this case, the cause of New York City landlords… Barrymore does perky as well as anyone. Stiller, an acquired taste I personally haven't acquired, does what he does best, including several scenes in which his sputtering frustration seems nothing if not ad-libbed. Essell, on the other hand, is terrific, alchemizing the standard little old lady role into something occasionally rather subtle, and at times frightening." --John Anderson, Newsday

"Essel's energy and timing are delightful. Stiller and Barrymore are fun, too; few actors have a better slow burn than Stiller…But the movie becomes an elaboration on one joke; Mrs. Connelly, in her passive-aggressive and sometimes plain aggressive way, makes life miserable for them, and they take it as long as they can, and then snap…But murder schemes aimed at Mrs. Connelly don't generate the laughter they should, maybe because no matter what she does, she still seems, irremediably, unredeemably, a sweet little old lady... There's too much contrivance and not enough plausibility, and so finally we're just enjoying the performances and wishing they'd been in a more persuasive movie." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Initially, ‘Duplex’ careens along at just the right pace…it tells an increasingly outlandish story with very funny (and often gross) moments. But about an hour in, it grows derivative and disappointing… As the couple's desperation grows, the humor wanes. Seeing an old lady lying on her apartment floor surrounded by flames is not very amusing, nor is watching a flu-ridden Barrymore vomit on her hubby." --Claudia Puig, USA Today

"This is a one-note deal, and it doesn't take long before you want to, well, just move out and leave these characters in their rent-controlled limbo…Let's not waste Stiller anymore, 'kay? He's a funny man and he needs to get to funny work." --Desson Howe, The Washington Post

"The building materials are top quality -- Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore star, Danny DeVito directs, the script is by Larry Doyle (‘Beavis and Butt-head’) and John Hamburg (‘Meet the Parents’) -- but the workmanship is shoddy. You know the roof leaks when Barrymore vomits on Stiller's face in a joke involving plumbing repair…What looks good in the blueprint -- both DeVito and Stiller specialize in the ways of ruthless people -- runs into construction problems…DeVito favors pushy slapstick; Stiller prefers hotshot sarcasm. Barrymore's comic talents are wasted; she's there for decoration." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"The movie mercifully abandons a subplot about Alex and Nancy's attempts to have a child -- while Mrs. Connelly watches their lovemaking -- most likely because of the stars' utter lack of chemistry together…Barrymore, mostly reduced to playing straight woman and victimized by hideous cinematography and makeup, often looks like she would rather be anywhere else than on the L.A. set of ‘Duplex’ -- especially when she's required to barf on Stiller's face." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post