Movie Review: The Do-Deca-Pentathlon [2012]

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon [2012]

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon [2012]
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Mark Kelly, Steve Zissis and Jennifer Lafleur
Runtime: 76 minutes

Anyone who has a sibling likely knows a thing or two about the intensity of competing. While often starting as “fun and games”, competitions can escalate in a hurry, especially between brothers. Sometimes this desire to become better than the sibling dissipates over time, but sometimes it just stays there, burrowing inside until waiting for the right moment to strike out.

In The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, the latest film from the Duplass brothers (Jeff Who Lives at Home, Cyrus), we are presented with a textbook example of this primal urge. Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis) are two estranged, thirtysomething brothers who have rekindled an amateur marathon tournament they created as teenagers, the Do-Deca-Pentathlon. This competition consists of 25 events — everything from basketball to table tennis to Laser Tag — and the winner will be dubbed the greatest of all time. While teenagers, their first attempt at this epic battle ended in controversy, as the “holding your breath underwater” event concluded when their grandfather thought one of them was drowning and pulled him out. This lack of conclusion has vested within them for 20 years, and now, at a family gathering they are ready to decide the winner once and for all.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon [2012]

Of course, now the guys are out of shape and quite frankly are in no condition to partake in a grueling tournament such as this. That doesn’t stop them, however, and they stealthily find ways to leave the rest of the family so they can compete. Mark’s wife, Stephanie (Jennifer Lafleur), knows what they are doing and tries to put a stop to it. After all, Mark has been advised by his therapist to avoid any stressful activities for fear of a heart attack, and this is about the absolute worst thing he could be doing. This leads to the brothers meeting up in the middle of the night — while everyone is sleeping — in order to continue their marathon. To say they are dedicated is an understatement.

There is a certain amount of drama herein thanks to the estranged relationship of the brothers, as well as the conflict between Mark and Stephanie, but there are enough laughs throughout to make this a lighthearted venture. The tournament is whimsical in nature, and it lends itself to some truly amusing moments such as when the family heads out to play Laser Tag. The brothers decide to team up and take out the rest of the family, leaving them to battle one on one for event purposes. In doing so, they go so far as to use military hand signals (which I get the feeling they learned from Call of Duty).

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon [2012]

If you are familiar with the work of the Duplass brothers, all of their trademark “mumblecore” techniques are at the forefront. This means that the obnoxious — and random — zoom-ins are heavily prevalent, and they quickly grow tedious. This is an extremely low budget film, and it was actually shot in 2008 before they had to move on to making Cyrus. Later commitments pushed this back to 2012, when they were finally able to put it all together. This film is also rather short, at just 76 minutes, but it feels like the perfect length.

I must admit I was a little surprised with The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. The Duplass brothers can be pretty hit-and-miss, but they succeeded in crafting an enjoyable film that is both lighthearted and fun. I would have preferred a little more closure, and the aforementioned camera zooms can be bothersome, but I was generally pleased overall. Hopefully the brothers don’t forget about their humble beginnings and will take on more projects such as this.

7/10

Movie Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]
Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer
Runtime: 83 Minutes

Living as a 30-year-old shut-in would seemingly provide an ample amount of time to think about things and attempt to gain a greater meaning from life. Especially if said shut-in is a pot smoking slacker who lives in his mother’s basement. This is Jeff (Jason Segel), a guy who coasts through life while waiting for his destiny to come to him. He has a strong affinity for M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film, Signs, and he believes that everything happens for a reason, just like in that movie.

One day, Jeff receives a phone call from an angry person looking for “Kevin”. This is a seemingly wrong number dial to anyone else, but Jeff does not see it this way. He takes this to be a sign and heads off to run an errand, which allows him the opportunity to keep an eye out for more potential clues. This simple trip to the hardware store becomes an adventure when he sees a young guy on the bus wearing a “Kevin” basketball jersey. A series of unexpected events leads Jeff to run into his detached older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), who seemingly has it all: a wife, a house, a well-paying job.

However, the two of them stumble upon Pat’s wife, Linda (Judy Greer) having lunch with another man. In an effort to find out what is going on, they begin following her car, acting as amateur private detectives. Suddenly their mundane day has become an adventure.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

We also meet the mother of Jeff and Pat, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), who is randomly instant messaged by someone at work, a secret admirer. This gives her normal office routine a pleasant jolt, quite similar to what is happening with her sons.

This all ties together in a charming, pleasing way, and there are quite a few laughs throughout. The Duplass brothers have an offbeat sense of humor (see: 2010’s Cyrus), but it works quite well with such strong names attached to the script. Segel and Helms are given a chance to show off their acting chops, as each are given some surprisingly powerful dramatic moments. One scene involving Helms and Greer arguing about their dysfunctional marriage is about as raw and vivid as it gets.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home [2011]

While sweet and generally pleasing, the film has some noticable issues. The Duplass brothers have a bizarre tendency to frequently zoom in and out at a rapid pace, which ultimately feels unnecessary in the context of the film. I also noticed several instances where the characters would leave a situation without properly resolving the matter (i.e. not paying for a bill at a restaurant, not paying taxi fare, etc.). Minor quibbles, yes, but these loose ends could have been easily tied up.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home has gained a wider release than I would have guessed (I saw it at an AMC Theater), which is a nice surprise for a film like this. While not perfect, the movie is an enjoyable affair that wisely mixes up humor and drama, all while utilizing a great cast with solid chemistry.

7/10

For a counter viewpoint, take the words from another moviegoer at my theater. Displeased with my reaction of “it was pretty good”, this loudmouth patron yelled “Pretty good?!?!? THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!” So yeah, your mileage may vary.