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Movie Review

If you've ever had a loud, nosy, needy, manipulative, obnoxious neighbor, you'll have no trouble understanding why Alex and Nancy are at their wit's end. Young and in love, the newlyweds bought a turn-of-the-last-century duplex in Brooklyn, only to find out their rent-controlled tenant (she pays $88 a month) is quite a bit less than the sweet, little old lady they thought she was.

At first, Mrs. Connelly is just a minor annoyance. She wants help with her garbage, her parrot (it's a macaw, she insists), her plumbing and her groceries. But then, things quickly spiral out of control. She plays her television at top volume, spies on the happy couple while they're having sex, and takes to ringing their buzzer at all hours of the day and night. Alex and Nancy go from amused to exasperated to irritable to desperate. And in their desperation, they begin imagining all manner of macabre ways to rid themselves of Mrs. Connelly. It's not long before they make a pact to do away with her for real. But the lady of longevity upstairs proves to have more lives than a cartoon kitty.


Positive Elements

Minor, positive gestures (such as a police officer coming to Mrs. Connelly's aid) are erased by a twist revealed in the movie's final minute. At first, Alex and Nancy show kindness and neighborly helpfulness to Mrs. Connelly, but their generosity and goodwill evaporate as her annoying behavior escalates.

Spiritual Content

Mrs. Connelly refers to an Irish superstition involving dead people. Alex and Nancy muse over whether Mrs. Connelly will go to heaven when she's dead.

Sexual Content

Alex and Nancy have sex once (Mrs. Connelly watches). Nothing is shown of the couple's bliss except Alex's bare chest, Nancy's shoulder and a kiss or two. There is, however, a running gag about naming Alex's private parts. The name "Dick" is used as a double entendre several times. Low-cut blouses reveal cleavage. The filmmakers make sexual jokes out of Mrs. Connelly taking a bath, and Alex giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In the bath, it's intimated that Mrs. Connelly "pleasures herself."

A hit man posing as a pornographer gives Alex and Nancy pornographic DVDs. When Nancy accidentally shoots Alex, it's said that she shot his penis. And the sexual joking continues when a female doctor examines him. It's implied that two characters are homosexual companions when they talk about a planned vacation to the Caribbean.

Violent Content

Before actually attempting to kill Mrs. Connelly, both Alex and Nancy fantasize about it. She imagines throwing her down the stairs. He pictures tossing her into the river. They talk about electrocuting her, "snapping her neck," beating her to death, decapitating her, drowning her and chopping her into little pieces. But when they get down to the business of actually following through, most of what they try backfires and injures them. Alex is blown across the room when a gas explosion he was trying to rig for her goes off too soon. Nancy shocks herself while trying to sabotage a lamp.

A man is maced and falls down the stairs. A police officer grabs Alex by the face. To distract a cop, Nancy punches Alex in the face. She also picks up a handgun and fires it accidentally (the impact is not shown). Mrs. Connelly fires a spear gun (designed for whaling) at a hit man, impaling his shoulder. Alex slips and falls many times. He falls out of a window. He trips on a loose piece of carpet. He slides down icy stairs.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word (yelled by Mrs. Connelly) and a couple of s-words are joined by just over a dozen milder profanities. God's name is misused about 10 times ("Oh my God," "Oh God," "God"). The expression "Holy Mary and Joseph" is used. Alex makes obscene gestures.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mrs. Connelly smokes once. When Alex and Nancy bring her a bottle of wine as a housewarming gift, she informs them that she doesn't drink ("That would be a sin," she says). Alex and Nancy, however, do drink several times.

Other Negative Elements

In one of the grossest scenes I've seen in a non-R movie, Nancy vomits profusely, directly onto Alex's face. After being the beneficiary of the Heimlich maneuver, Mrs Connelly expels a half-eaten caramel which flies across the room and sticks between Nancy's eyes. Mrs. Connelly chews up hot dogs and spits the meat onto her hand before feeding it to her parrot. Alex intentionally catches the flu from a sick man on a subway car. In a vulgar, angry rant, Alex conjures nauseating images involving—to put things delicately—Mrs. Connelly and her bowel movements. Elsewhere, deception and fraud, personal injury, theft, breaking and entering, and destruction of property are merely fodder for more jokes.


Duplex is supposed to be funny, so it's somewhat impractical for me to get up on a soapbox about how we're all supposed to love our neighbors and, in general, avoid hiring hit men to murder them (something Alex and Nancy ultimately resort to). To its credit, the movie is sometimes startlingly absurd and even playful. But that doesn't stop me from wishing that the crew that built Duplex had spent its comedic energy on ousting Mrs. Connelly rather than offing her. Imagine if Home Alone's Kevin McCallister had been trying to kill the bad guys rather than just bounce them around a bit. This is Throw Momma From the Train all over again with fresh faces and stationary sets. Does your family really want to spend the evening giggling guiltily while watching a little old lady with a target painted on her back?

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Ben Stiller as Alex; Drew Barrymore as Nancy; Eileen Essel as Mrs. Connelly; Harvey Fierstein as Kenneth


Danny DeVito ( )


Miramax Films



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Steven Isaac

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