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With: Mark Kelly, Steve Zissis, Jennifer Lafleur, Julie Vorus, Reid Williams
Written by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Directed by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 76
Date: 03/11/2012

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Event-Filled Days

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Jeff Who Lives at Home, etc.) have done it again, using their sharp writing, appealingly hangdog characters, and no-frills filmmaking, to come up with another winner. Even better, they have cooked up some strong characters and believable family relationships and played them out in an economic 76 minutes. Despite the focus on two brothers, the wife, mother, and son characters are not left behind.

Middle-aged Mark (Steve Zissis) prepares to take his wife and son back to his childhood home for his birthday party. He hopes his brother Jeremy (Mark Kelly) won't be there. Years earlier, the brothers held a competition, "the do-deca-pentathlon" -- 25 events, including push-ups, pool, arm-wrestling, and breath-holding -- that ended controversially and left their relationship in tatters. But Jeremy does arrive, and it's not long before the brothers start ripping at each other. And thus, the competition begins anew, but Mark must keep it a secret from his wife (Jennifer Lafleur), who fears that it will put Mark under too much stress. Will the brothers' conflict finally be resolved, or will it tear the family apart in the meantime?

Actors Kelly and Zissis conjure up a genuine brotherly chemistry and turn in a couple of emotionally raw -- and physically demanding -- performances. The movie deals with the potentially uncomfortable modern-day man-child syndrome but it points to love and acceptance as a possible solution, and it does so with a generous helping of humor and levity. Indeed, the balance of comedy and drama here is just right, and the movie never runs out of steam, heart, or laughs.

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