Stiller the Ladykiller
"Our House" or "Duplex" feels to me like director Danny DeVito trying to bring the dark humour of the Ealing Comedy to a modern audience, and by the various reviews I have read an audience which didn't appreciate it. It has a storyline which in many ways is classic Ealing as we have this couple trying to kill the sweet but annoying old lady who lives on the floor above them in the duplex they have just brought and if you don't believe me watch the classic Ealing comedy "The Ladykillers". And the thing is that when you spot this, spot that this is going to be a dark comedy with a touch of the sadistic humour about it, it then works, if you don't and expect just another Ben Stiller or Drew Barrymore comedy it doesn't work. Having said that it is not perfect and certain things such as having no one to really champion is a problem but the fun and chaos of this couple pushed to desperate measures is amusing.
Young couple Alex (Ben Stiller - Zoolander) and Nancy (Drew Barrymore - Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) are struggling to buy a reasonable property so when they get shown a large duplex with an elderly tenant, Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essell), on the upper floor they sign the dotted line, half thinking the sweet old lady will pop her clogs soon. But what they don't account on is this sweet old lady ruining their lives with the TV on loud through the night, her friends around for band practice and constantly disturbing Alex who is pressed to get the book he is writing in on time. As both Alex and Nancy are pushed to the limit they start having dark thoughts about how they can get rid of Mrs. Connelly.
So as already mentioned "Our House" is very much in the image of a classic Ealing comedy with dark humour and a sweet old lady who keeps on getting in the way. As such the storyline is simple and is all about Alex and Nancy pushed to the limit by their upstairs neighbour till they can't take it anymore and try and get rid of her by any means necessary. What this really means is that whilst we have some soft humour such as Alex hiding in Mrs. Connelly's bathroom and having to wait there whilst she has a bath the emphasis is on their nefarious attempts to kill her. This humour also has a touch of the 80s comedy about reminiscent of "The Money Pit" and "The War of the Roses" as the duplex gets slowly destroyed as they try and kill Mrs. Connelly.
But the thing is that "Our House" whilst setting up this classic dark comedy doesn't quite come off. The first problem is that neither Alex and Nancy or Mrs. Connelly are nice enough to warm to, it means that when battle commences we don't feel like we are on either side. But more importantly is that all the dark humour lacks the real sadistic bite you are expecting, it seems to throw jokes in such as Alex falling foul of one of his own traps but then never really relishes in his misfortune. It makes it a comedy which starts to feel a bit processional as one joke follows another but none of them get the big pay off needed to really have you laughing.
What is also a problem is that with the exception of a couple of scenes which sees Ben Stiller let rip with some angry humour the rest of the jokes are not what you expect from him or Drew Barrymore. It means that if you watched "our House expecting a comedy full of Stiller style humour you are going to be left wanting and with much of the dark humour lacking that killer bite it ends up a little ordinary.
What this all boils down to is that I like what Danny DeVito was trying as it seems he was trying to deliver an Ealing style comedy with "Our House". But sadly it doesn't quite work and whilst not terrible it lacks that killer punch when it comes to the dark humour.