January 26, 2010 / 1:49 AM / 10 years ago

"Douchebag" an enjoyable road-trip outing

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - The unexpected reunion of two young men leads to an ill-advised eventful project in “Douchebag,” a clever DIY comedy that could be this year’s “Humpday” for art-house audiences in search of characters they recognize from their own lives.

This time around, the nervous-laughter factor comes from the movie’s barely printable title instead of its premise, which is hardly as outrageous as two straight men trying to make a gay porn film: Brothers Sam and Tom, estranged for two years for reasons we don’t know, are brought together by the former’s fiancee, who arrives unannounced at Tom’s door and all but insists that he come back with her to be at the wedding.

Although director/co-writer Drake Doremus cues us initially to view Tom as the eponymous douchebag — he’s an adult sponging off his parents and makes excuses so lame they hardly merit the name when first invited to the wedding — actor Ben York Jones doesn’t let us harbor that illusion for long. Moist-eyed and vulnerable, Jones projects an endearing willingness to reconcile with his brother even though he clearly fears some kind of mistreatment.

After a few ice-breaking scenes — one offering an amusing riff on figure skating, one hinting at the arrogance underlying Sam’s nurturing, tree-hugging facade — Tom’s hosts decide he needs a date to the wedding, which still is a few days off, and urge him to hunt down a childhood sweetheart he hasn’t seen since the fifth grade. Finding three women by that name in Southern California, he and Sam set out on a road trip to find the right one.

Along the way, the screenwriting team rations out little ways for Andrew Dicker to expose Sam’s selfishness and unreliability. Dickler fills the role with insight, aiming for believability instead of the broadness of the film’s title — as a result, we don’t flinch when the brothers seem to be enjoying each other’s company and don’t find it impossible to believe when the script grants Sam some abrupt insights. In the end, the douchebag isn’t the star of the show, but he’s an essential part of making it work.

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