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Three’s a pointless crowd in ‘Dupree’

Sold as a comedy, this film plays more like a failed drama

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, the “Wedding Crashers” pals from last year, have gone their separate ways this summer — Vaughn to a train wreck called “The Break-Up,” Wilson to the equally misbegotten “You, Me and Dupree.”

Both movies have been sold as comedies, and both play more like failed dramas. The spectacle of Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston fighting for two hours was never inherently funny. Neither is the drawn-out crackup of the threesome who drive the plot of “Dupree.”

Wilson plays Randy Dupree, the slacker pal of land developer Carl Peterson (Matt Dillon), whose marriage to a sophisticated schoolteacher, Molly (Kate Hudson), is threatened when Dupree moves in with them. He gave up his job to be best man at their wedding, so he figures the least they can do is lend him their couch while he looks for work.

Soon he’s re-recording their telephone messages, making their toilets overflow, installing premium-channel cable so they can watch “The Sopranos,” exposing himself (and worse) in their living room, and nearly burning down the house when he lights too many candles for a tryst with a nymphomaniac librarian named Mandy.

The first third of the movie plays like an overextended remake of the classic “Saturday Night Live” skit, “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave,” in which John Belushi played the most unwelcome guest. Act Two clumsily drops the black-humor approach and turns strangely sappy, with Dupree so hung up on Mandy that he can’t stop listening to Barry Manilow.

In Act Three, Carl becomes jealous of the cozy relationship Dupree establishes with both Molly and her otherwise hostile father (Michael Douglas), who emasculates Carl in his job and tries to wreck his marriage to Molly. The character appears to have been lifted from “Meet the Parents,” but Douglas adds nothing to it.

Little makes sense in Mike LeSieur’s anything-goes script, which provides few reasons for Molly’s erratic behavior. At first she seems foolishly tolerant of Dupree’s antics, then she sees him as a threat to their marriage, then she turns on him. Eventually she accepts him as an inevitable part of their household. Maybe it’s the pyromaniac in him (or her) that turns her on. Who knows?

Hudson visibly struggles to smooth over the abrupt transitions in her character. So do Wilson, who may have reached the limits of his surfer-dude charm (he also co-produced the film and worked on the script), and Dillon, who works hardest to make something of his role. He plays Carl as a betrayed straight arrow who is out of his depth, and he finds a legitimate poignancy in the character’s more emotional scenes. Harry Dean Stanton and Lance Armstrong are almost invisible in cameo roles.

The co-directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, previously made the 2002 flop, “Welcome to Collinwood,” though they’re better-known for their work on the prize-winning half-hour television comedy, “Arrested Development.” Gifted though they may be in smaller doses, they’re a long way from mastering the art of feature-length comedy.