In Danny DeVito’s Duplex, Alex (Ben Stiller) and his wife Nancy (Drew Barrymore) move into a suspiciously cost-effective apartment in Brooklyn expecting an idyllic existence only to discover that their upstairs tenant, Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essel), is really the neighbor from hell. The seemingly cute and innocent old bitty annoys Alex with her fuzzy math (in one of the film’s funnier bits, she’s seen counting everything from pennies to blueberries) and keeps the couple up all night with her television. After countless domestic disturbances, the couple decides to take matters into their own hands. The absurdities are few and far between (the film’s major running gag implies that Mrs. Connelly actually runs across her living room in order to turn on the television) and the film’s one-joke premise quickly wears thin, no thanks in part to DeVito’s lousy direction. Essentially a 90-minute pilot episode for a rejected TV sitcom, Duplex is watchable only for Essel’s ridiculous performance as the film’s geriatric monster. (The actress’s only other screen credit is Ali G in da House.) DeVito’s retro concoctions have a certain cornball allure, but one gets the impression that the actor/director is perpetually trapped in the past: if his Death to Smoochy poked fun at Barney Mania a good five years too late, Duplex could just as easily have been called Throw Momma from the Money Pit. Been there, done that.
First, some useless trend-spotting. It's interesting that Buena Vista Home Video will release Duplex on the same day as Cold Creek Manor. Both films are more or less the same: a tenant harasses a frustrated artist and his spouse before someone makes a killing writing about the experience. The big surprise here is that Duplex is the better DVD experience. Despite some edginess to the picture, this is a phenomenally clean transfer. Blacks aren't too deep, but that's more or less part of the very film-like presentation. Grain is present but its nonetheless comfortable and the colors are splendidly saturated (look at the blueberries in the supermarket scene). From the constantly ringing doorbells and creaking floorboards to the tinkly score, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track packs a surprising punch.
Nothing special: a three-minute "Behind the Scenes Special" that's really a montage of banal behind-the-scenes footage set to music; three deleted scenes obviously deleted for redundancy issues; and one Sneak Peek (here it's that cloying, masturbatory Miramax promotional clip that declares how many Oscars the studio was nominated for). On the bright side, a fullscreen version of the film is available on the second disc of this two-disc set.
Danny DeVito's low budget Duplex gets the top-notch audio/video treatment, but supplemental materials are on the embarrassing side.