Lisa Schwarzbaum
September 24, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Duplex

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
88 minutes
Wide Release Date
09/26/03
performer
Drew Barrymore, Ben Stiller, Eileen Essell, Tim Maculan, James Remar, Justin Theroux
director
Danny DeVito
Producer
Ben Stiller
distributor
Miramax
author
Larry Doyle
genre
Comedy, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a C-

Since Duplex is a comedy set in Brooklyn’s cutthroat housing market and is about a sweet-faced little old tenant from hell who torments her yuppie landlords into plotting to kill her, it’s time to haul out the homeowner metaphors: 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. You know the architects started out with higher hopes when Wallace Shawn, Swoosie Kurtz, and Harvey Fierstein make cameo appearances. (Eileen Essell plays the unbudgeable old lady.)

What looks good in the blueprint — both DeVito and Stiller specialize in the ways of ruthless people — runs into construction problems, maybe from too many foremen. DeVito favors pushy slapstick; Stiller prefers hotshot sarcasm. Barrymore’s comic talents are wasted; she’s there for decoration.

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