Danny DeVito is one sick bastard. From 1987’s Throw Momma From the Train, his directorial debut, to last year’s widely panned Death to Smoochy, DeVito has chosen scripts that delight in casual homicide, whether that means your own flesh and blood or a pesky rival who’s stolen your job. With Duplex, he’s added annoying tenant to his list of undesirables. The film is the story of a young, successful couple and the downfall that awaits them when they buy a piece of spacious Brooklyn real estate in a deal that’s “too good to be true.” When Alex (Ben Stiller) and Nancy (Drew Barrymore, doing a singsongy loving-wife schtick) first meet their prospective tenant, the elderly Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essel), she’s seemingly on death’s doorstep; they buy the building in the belief that her rent-controlled apartment will soon become a vacant gold mine. Mrs. Connelly not only recovers but morphs into a feisty little crone, bothering Alex as he tries to finish his novel, passing judgment on the couple’s lifestyle, and keeping them awake at night with a blaring television. So Alex and Nancy, naturally, decide that their only hope for peace is to kill her. Though the film offers a few laughs, thanks mostly to Stiller, and turns out to be a little less manic than its ads suggest, it too often wallows in slapstick of the flesh-wound variety and gags that are Farrelly-brothers gross. (A scene in which Nancy vomits down a sink and into Alex’s face will turn even the strongest stomachs.) The running jokes are tiresome and unsurprising: hair-trigger firearms, old-lady nudity, an important manuscript that gets destroyed. Alex is a character you’ve seen before, too—sarcastic and set at a quiet boil, with occasional bursts of rage. But Stiller’s ability to get giggles from even musings such as “She’s very crafty…a crafty old lady” is as well-honed as ever. He’s not reason enough to see Duplex, but he does single-handedly make it something slightly more than just another twisted DeVito fantasy. —Tricia Olszewski