A hefty percentage of today's comedic stars make movies about arrested development—Adam Sandler, with his Happy Madison Productions, has made a cottage industry out of it—but those films almost always end with the hero finally shedding his juvenile habits and learning to grow up. What makes Owen Wilson a special exception is that his characters always work to make the world more child-like and whimsical, and the films brighten up as a result. Where the third act of most arrested-development comedies slog through the sober business of adulthood, a good Wilson comedy usually gains momentum toward the end, because everyone else starts coming around to his point of view. The pictures have changed, but he'll always be Dignan in Bottle Rocket. You, Me And Dupree isn't the smoothest possible vehicle for his talents, but at least it recognizes what's exceptional about him and gives him plenty of room to operate.
The jester in a cast full of straight men—with the notable exception of Seth Rogen, who's delightful as usual as a whipped husband—Wilson stars as the deadbeat best man at the wedding of his friend Matt Dillon. Shortly after Dillon and new wife Kate Hudson return from their honeymoon, Wilson winds up jobless and homeless, fighting with local drunks over an empty cot in the back of the bar. Dillon takes pity on his friend and allows him to crash on the couch "for a few days," but when those days turn into weeks and Wilson's personal habits become a problem, it puts a strain on the new marriage. Adding to the pressure is Dillon's working relationship with Hudson's father (Michael Douglas), a monomaniacal architect who shows little but contempt for his son-in-law.
You, Me And Dupree isn't terribly democratic about spreading the laughs around; whenever Wilson disappears from the screen, the comedy evaporates in kind. Yet the film still fusses over unfunny elements like the battle of wills between Dillon and Douglas. Though she can be every bit as buoyant a comedian as her mother Goldie Hawn, poor Hudson has to play the wet blanket, tsk-tsk-ing over the boys using her grandma's best silver to serve nachos, or the box of Asian porn in the garage. But directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome To Collinwood) are smart enough to hand the movie over to Wilson, whose gentle eccentricity gives virtually every scene a lift. May he stay young forever.