Danny DeVito directs this 2003 dark comedy which stars Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore as a newly married couple who move into a duplex in New York only to find that they have a tenant who might just drive them insane.
The tenant in question is Mrs. Connelly (a brilliant Eileen Essell), an ageing Irish lady who seems harmless enough early on but who, little by little, successfully gets on Alex and Nancy's (Stiller and Barrymore) nerves. The former is a writer who is trying to focus on completing his book but he soon struggles when Mrs. Connelly starts getting him to do various mindless chores every day. Eventually, the couple even start considering murdering the old lady who may or may not be deliberately trying to ruin their lives.
The film is a bit like a cross between Home Alone, The Money Pit and Throw Momma From The Train as two people who are clearly not cut out to be criminals find themselves reluctantly thinking dark thoughts while suffering through slapstick mishaps in a crumbling house. The humour throughout Duplex is pretty uneven: one second it's like a more low-key Meet The Parents, the next it's kinda vulgar and gross-out. One scene that stands out, for example, sees Nancy get splattered with sewage which prompts her to then throw up on her husband's face.
Enough to put you off your dinner.
Then the bulk of the jokes are tamer like Nancy getting electrocuted and her hair standing on end or Alex being forced to eat out-of-date Bugle chips (seen The 'Burbs, much?). While this all may sound a bit uninteresting, the film is lucky enough to be fairly amusing throughout: a lot of the jokes surprisingly work, Ben Stiller is on his usual ebullient form while Eileen Essell steals the show as the movie's unlikely antagonist. It's a shame, then, that the film starts and ends in such a rushed, lazy way as it attempts to throw some kind of last minute twist at us but it falls completely flat.
Duplex (also known as Our House) may not be anyone involved's best but it makes for entertaining, though silly, viewing. It's funny enough to sit through but not quite funny enough to be essential or all that memorable.