[Review] – The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

30 Jul

Title: The Do-Deca-Pentathlon
Year: 2012
Directors: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring: Mark Kelly, Steve Zissis
MPAA Rating: R, language
Runtime: 76 min
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Metacritic: 60

After watching The Dark Knight Rises, I decided to go on the most opposite direction of that movie I could find, and so I settled for The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a film that has a very reduced cast, runs for less than half of what Christopher Nolan‘s final installment of his Batman trilogy does, and is just super low-budget, low-scale, low-everything. It’s also the second film of 2012 directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, after the brilliant Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which I saw back in April and currently stands as my 13th favorite film of the year to date. This one also continues to make this a huge year for Mark Duplass, who in addition to directing those two films has had acting roles in four others, some of them truly great ones, with Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty still to come.

Now, while Jeff, Who Lives at Home saw the brothers giving direction to well-known stars like Ed Helms and Jason Segel, and saw them kind of combining their quirky style of comedy with a more mainstream tone (or as mainstream as a movie by them can feel), much like they did with Cyrus in 2010, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon sees them once again directing just super low-key movies with faces that you don’t know and totally homemade and improvised feel to them. It’s also a film that has great timing now with Olympic fever running high, as it centers on two grown-up brothers who are super competitive with one another and who decide to create their own multi-event Olympics during a family reunion.

The two brothers the film centers on, Mark and Jeremy, actually made their own 25-event Olympic back when they were kids. Mark was the victor on a technicality, and their mother says they really tied, but for two decades Mark has been strutting along as the superior sibling and Jeremy has been holding a grudge.  They also secretly envy one another, with Mark wanting the carefree life he envisions Jeremy has as a professional poker player in Vegas, and Jeremy on his part wanting the company and comfort he assumes Mark’s life as a married man with a son provides. And so, as they reunite in their childhood home for Mark’s birthday, they decide to do their Do-Deca-Pentathlon again.

This one’s obviously going to be a funny movie. After all, you have two brothers who devised an event as kids to decide who’s the better one of the two and that was ended as the climatic final event, which consisted in seeing who could hold their breath underwater the longest, was interrupted when an uncle thought one of them was drowning and got him out of the water. And they really have made it seem as thought that event has been the most important thing in their lives.

The films of the Duplass brothers sometimes have these kind of plots that make it seem as thought not much will happen, and yet they have a way of really uncovering some really deep meaning to these storylines, and that’s the case in The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. I would guess there’s some autobiographical stuff going on here, what with one of the characters even being named Mark and all, but obviously the brothers behind the camera get along really well. But still, they obviously know about the moments in which siblings just can’t get along, especially as kids, and they just extend that feel with Mark and Jeremy here into their thirties, with this kind of arrested adolescence and really touching upon some really great emotions along the way.

They also make it all pretty damn funny. There are no ground-breaking comedic moments or anything, of course, but the stuff that you could expect the Duplass’ to do in order to spoof sports are all here, and they really know how to make them work. Both arm and leg wrestling are events included, a rematch of the breath-holding scenario, and a match of laser tag that’s made to look as a super tense scene from a serious war movie.

I really liked The Do-Deca Pentathlon. Not as much as I did Jeff, Who Lives at Home, but it’s really nice to see these kind of DIY projects from this pair of brothers, even if they sometimes get a bit too carried away with those random close-up zooms they like to indulge in. This one was actually done before Cyrus, but because that project had big names, and because they got big names for Jeff, Who Lives at Home, this one was left in the back-burner until now, and that’s good because it reminds us of what these guys can do on a shoestring budget, not to mention that it actually fits in with those bigger projects as a cohesive part of their oeuvre as auteurs.

This is another film from them that’s about ordinary people, and that benefits from having these relatively unknown performers precisely because you can buy them as ordinary people. You buy Mark Kelly and Steve Zissis as these guys who are acting childish but that are doing so because they have some really deep emotions running through them, they have jealousy, they have insecurity, they have desperation. And, as you might expect, by the end of the film we’ll get one of those schmaltzy kind of moments, the difference being that in here, when the Duplass brothers go for that sentimental feeling, they have actually earned their rights, and it feels well deserved.

Grade: B

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One Response to “[Review] – The Do-Deca-Pentathlon”

  1. Andrew King July 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    I’ve been interested in this movie for a while, but haven’t really had a reason to see it. I may check it out after reading your review though, it has really peeked my interest and I didn’t realize Mark Duplass was involved.

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