Directed by: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass Cast: Steve Zissis, Mark Kelly, Jennifer Lafleur Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 6, 2012 (Limited)
PLOT: Two dysfunctional brothers (Zissis, Kelly) reignite their 25-event "Do-Deca-Pentathlon" after years of family controversy surrounding who won the last competition.
WHO'S IT FOR?: If you're a fan of the Duplass brothers films, just know that this movie is much more The Puffy Chair than it is Jeff, Who Lives At Home.
The Duplass Brothers, still strong in their independent ways, are committed to the organic elements of a story. Though their story premises are malleable for larger budgets to host genre conventions (especially with their recurring interest in the growth of the man-child), their feet remain firm in what makes a story believable. (This sets their comedies apart from the ones they may resemble, something that makes a movie like Cyrus feel like an indie scam in the first viewing.)
They tried to bend this taste for naturalism with their previously released film Jeff, Who Lives At Home, a movie about a man searching for meaning in the name Kevin. With a ridiculous third act that includes a weirdly-toned bridge-diving episode and the most forced love story Susan Sarandon has probably ever been in, that story was broken by that movie's weight of coincidence and stoner-eyed wonder.
Thus, it's a victory for the roots of The Duplass Brothers that they have returned to the form that gave them the opportunity to make Cyrus and Jeff, even if it means the audiences can be notably smaller (there is no A-list star in this one). But rest assured, Duplass fans will feel right at home with The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a comedy that casually explores the goofy drive between unending masculine competition, no matter how old a man can be.
It should be noted that the general premise for this film is simply funny in itself, and offers ripe thoughtful material for the topics that these brother directors consistently explore. It is as believable as it is humbly ridiculous, and that's before hearing that this movie was inspired by a real family who held such a real type of tournament.
The main event of Do-Deca are its performances, which are enlivened by a set of often quiet conversations that feel improvised but still within focus of the heart of the story. A particular line that stands tall within the whole dialogue-driven film is when young Hunter asks his uncle (Kelly) about his dad, "Why is he so lame now?" The rest of this movie wrestles (eventually, literally) with this question, especially while these warring brothers try to reclaim the glory of their older days.
These usually intimate moments are captured with the same cinematography style that polarizes viewers in their previous films (it certainly jolts them, at least). It's that whole "calculated zoom" concept, in which instead of beats in editing, our focus is guided towards what is being visually narrowed in on. Thankfully, with Do-Deca, such a style choice is used in a more natural way, without being hurled at the same amount or velocity as Cyrus or even Jeff, Who Lives At Home. Interactions between characters (especially in the usually quiet settings of a family home) are able to play out in their natural sense without being distracted from overbearing zooms.
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon may not be the busiest of movies, but it isn't slow. The competition sequences are certainly funny in themselves, as propelled by the consistent helplessness that Jeremy, the one who is married and has a kid, has to the concept of competition. When the two brothers have to be much less obvious about the events in the infamous "Do-Deca," a crumpled checklist marking wins and losses has never looked funnier, or true.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10