The runtime of 76 minutes may have been a little too concise and even though you can pretty much predict the outcome, it still remained entertaining.
The Duplass brothers have made quite an impact on indie cinema over the last seven years. As their budgets have increased, so have their fans. Their recent explosion in popularity with studios hindered them from taking this 4 year old project off the shelf. While they were in post-production for The Do-Deca-Pentathlon they got green-lit to make Cyrus. Then the same thing happened for Jeff, Who Lives At Home. Since these were studio opportunities The Do-Deca-Pentathlon took a back seat to these projects.
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon worked well with the things that the Duplass brothers normally get right, such as dialog and making it feel true to life alongside quirky characters that have heart. It had a more raw feeling to it which was more evident in their earlier work. Being that I am an extremely competitive person and have experienced brother rivalry firsthand, I could really relate to the film even though it shows you just how childish it can be.
Sitting in a bath tub, Mark (Steve Zissis) recalls an awful (but hilarious) prank that his older brother Jeremy (Mark Kelly) pulled on him as kids. Even though the two have not kept in touch for many years, he worries that his brother will show up at their mother’s house for his birthday party. Mark is clearly wounded from growing up with his brother, he has doctor visits to prove it. His wife Stephanie (Jennifer Lafleur) tells him not to fret as Jeremy is at a professional poker tournament.
Mark, now relieved, participates in a casual 5K fun-run with his family. But just shortly after the race begins a vehicle comes screeching towards the starting line. Sure enough, it is Jeremy. He sprints to catch up to Mark and his family and subsequently ruining Mark’s weekend. What started out as a casual run now turned into a sibling rivalry and you soon realize that Jeremy would have never passed up an opportunity to compete against is brother.
Come to find out, the two have had a long epic history of competing against one another that dates back to when they were just teenagers. As kids they came up with a pentathlon of 25 events in which the winner became the ultimate champion and the better brother. But there was no clear winner because on the final event of seeing who could hold your breath the longest underwater was interrupted by their grandfather.
So Mark’s birthday weekend now turns into a redux of the Do-Deca-Pentathlon in hopes to bring closure to which brother is really the best. The only problem is that Stephanie does not want him competing in this fierce competition because his doctors told him he needs to take it easy. Mark knows this so he and Jeremy need to form a rare alliance to hold the 25 events without this wife knowing. It was probably one of the few times that the brothers ever worked together as a team.
What follows are 25 ridiculous yet comical events that make up the Do-Deca-Pentathlon which include; Ping-Pong, shooting pool, laser tag, basketball, skee-ball, air hockey, go karting, swimming, long jump, racquetball, tennis, holding their breath the longest, and leg wrestling. It does not take Stephanie very long to catch on their “smokescreen” they put up to disguise the fact they were doing another Do-Deca. Mark must make the decision between saving his marriage or being the best brother.
The Do-Deca-Pentathlon is probably the Duplass brother’s most comical film to date. A ton of laughs were had throughout. However, it did begin the scratch the surface on some deeper relationship qualms. Such as, a son who feels like he cannot talk to his father. And also a wife who feels like she is holding her husband back from doing things he wants to do. I loved the fact that these were brought up but would have liked to have had a little more emphasis put on them. His wife seemingly gives him an ultimatum but in the next scene she forgoes her effort.
I will be honest, for a Duplass brothers film, I was not necessarily as excited to see this film as much as I was with their previous work. Also, I felt like it was not a strong start for the film so I began to wonder if this will be the first Duplass brother film I did not care for. But thankfully, in true Duplass brother fashion, they came through taking ordinary situations and make them entertaining while using their trademark quick zoom camera work.
There were times where I saw a lot of Mark Duplass in Steve Zissis’ character. Which would make sense that the film may be a little autobiographical being that Zissis’ character is named Mark. Also aligning with that theory is the fact that Zissis is the younger brother, just like Mark is to Jay in real life. But they have gone on the record to say that this was based on people they knew growing up in New Orleans.
It is human nature to be competitive but if you grew up with a brother you understand the instinctual importance of sibling rivalry even greater. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon shows that competition can do more harm than good when it turns into an obsession. In this film, both of the characters envied each other’s life while ironically disliking their own. The runtime of 76 minutes may have been a little too concise and even though you can pretty much predict the outcome, it still remained entertaining.