Tim Grierson on the Indie Gem “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon”

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon

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Summer movie season is host to lots of big movies. Whether it’s the gigantic blockbusters like “The Avengers” or serious award-contending indies like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” the films that come out during this time of year all feel a little more momentous. So it’s easy for a relatively small, low-budget affair to slip through the cracks, its pleasures lost amidst a crowded marketplace. Which is why I want to recommend you seek out “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” while you have the chance.

The warring-siblings comedy is the latest from brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, who earlier this year released the surprisingly poignant “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” But in fact, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” is an older film from them — it was completed after 2008’s “Baghead” and before the brothers’ transition to more polished, mainstream indies like “Cyrus.” As a result, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” almost feels like an outtake or side project from the Duplasses, a fun scribble that shouldn’t be taken too seriously but is nonetheless a must-see for the directors’ fans. But unlike a lot of side projects, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” isn’t overly self-indulgent. It’s actually quite a good little film.

The movie features two adult brothers, Mark (Steve Zissis) and Jeremy (Mark Kelly), who essentially stopped speaking to one another in their teens. The reason for their falling-out was the Do-Deca-Pentathlon, a 25-event competition they concocted in high school whose winner would be deemed the superior brother. The competition included everything from push-ups to arm-wrestling to holding your breath underwater, but the contest ended in a disputed tie, leaving no one the winner and forever driving a wedge between them. Years later, Mark and his family are visiting his mom when Jeremy shows up unannounced, in part because he wants to stage a new Do-Deca-Pentathlon. Mark’s wife (Jennifer Lafleur) forbids her husband to do it — he has to worry about stress — but Mark’s old competitive streak with his brother won’t go away. And so the contest begins anew.

With a running time of about 75 minutes, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” is deceptively slight and boasts a rather obvious moral: Even as grownups, men sure act like children. But as the Duplass brothers have demonstrated throughout their career — which began with their terrific 2005 debut, “The Puffy Chair” — they’re quite skillful at taking a catchy premise and exploring it as deeply as they can, finding some unguarded emotion and unexpected truth beneath the obvious laughs. Much of that has to do with the brothers’ heavily improvisational style with their actors, which creates a loose, rough quality to their films that sometimes can feel amateurish but often results in some wonderfully lived-in moments between the characters. (“They don’t always look beautiful, they don’t always sound beautiful,” Mark Duplass recently said about his and Jay’s films, “but if we try to keep an organic performance that’s kind of truthful and funny and sad, then people tend to connect to it.”) With its zooming handheld camera and cheapo production values, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” feels thrown together, but its careful examination of male discontent is strung together so precisely that the movie’s a small little marvel of concise storytelling.

Which isn’t to say that “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” isn’t also very funny. On one level, this comedy is simply about two overgrown kids whose childhood competitiveness has stunted their emotional development. Zissis as the conflicted family man and Kelly as the cocky poker-playing bachelor are portraying easily identifiable male types, and both actors do an excellent job exuding all the clichés of their particular type. But the secret to the success of “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” is that neither the actors nor the filmmakers hint at the fact that they know that Mark and Jeremy are behaving ridiculously. Rather, the characters’ silly competition is treated pretty seriously, which makes their struggle funnier but also sadder. In the films that the Duplasses have made since “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” — “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” — they have further satirized male rivalry, but neither of those movies are as cutting as this one in showing how competitiveness fuels men but also corrodes them. You get the sense that the Duplass brothers know in their hearts that their characters are hopelessly immature. But you also get the sense that the filmmakers understand their characters in a way that probably makes even them uncomfortable.

“The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” opened in limited released on July 6 and will be expanding from there. But even if you can’t see it in a theater, it’s currently available on demand through some cable companies and iTunes. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t recommend watching a film at home if you can see it on the big screen, but with its lo-fi vibe, “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon” has an intimacy that should translate just fine to your home theater. Plus, if you end up identifying a little too strongly with Mark and Jeremy’s plight, it might be better to experience that harsh realization from the safety of your own couch.

David Krumholtz Harold and Kumar

Goldstein Rules

David Krumholtz’s 10 Funniest Movie Roles

David Krumholtz stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P.

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If you’ve seen David Krumholtz in Gigi Does It, then you know he’s a performer with serious range. It’s hard to believe the guy you loved in films like Harold & Kumar and 10 Things I Hate About You is under all that makeup. To help get you ready for David’s appearance on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, check out some of his funniest movie performances below.

10.The Santa Clause, Bernard the Elf

Walt Disney Pictures

Krumholtz was a memorable part of the Tim Allen holiday favorite, playing an overworked, Type A elf just trying to keep the North Pole moving.

9. Slums of Beverly Hills, Ben

Krumholtz played the Broadway bound brother of a rapidly developing Natasha Lyonne in this indie darling.

8. The Big Ask, Andrew

Krumholtz’s friends would do anything for him…well, almost anything, in this dark comedy about big favors.

7. Addams Family Values, Joel Glicker

Neurotic Joel Glicker didn’t have much going for him, but sometimes the right amount of desperation can be attractive. Just ask Wednesday Addams.

6. Serenity, Mr. Universe

Krumholtz supplied some comedic relief to Joss Whedon’s space Western as a hacker who’s funny right up until the moment he breaks your heart.

5. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Schwartzberg

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

Krumholtz shines almost as much as his staches and ‘dos in this cult classic send up of musician biopics.

4. This Is the End, David Krumholtz

Krumholtz got to play one of his funniest parts ever in this Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy as, well, David Krumholtz.

3. Superbad, Benji Austin

Krumholtz wanted Michael Cera to sing him a little song, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Maybe that had something to do with all the cocaine.

2. 10 Things I Hate About You, Michael

Touchstone Pictures

Krumholtz became an icon for a generation when he allowed Andrew Keegan to draw a male member on his face in this teen classic.

1. Harold and Kumar trilogyGoldstein

Little did we know that Goldstein’s search for Katie Homes’ nude scenes would launch one of Krumholtz’s most beloved characters, popping up in all three Harold & Kumar movies.

That 70s Show Fez

Fez Fever!

Think You Know Fez? Take This Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P ET/PT.

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Fez played the role of the outsider on That ’70s Show, but was quickly welcomed into the Circle. How deeply have you accepted Fez into your life? Click below to start the quiz and find out!


Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

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Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.

That 70s Show Kelso 1920

Kelso's #1 Fan?

How Well Do You Know Kelso? Take Our Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Kelso’s loveable cluelessness is one of the bedrocks of That ’70s Show. But how much do you really know when it comes to him? Take our quiz below, and be sure to catch That ’70s Show on IFC.


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