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By Merle Bertrand | October 25, 2001

As tired as the relatively recent “mockumentary” sub-genre has quickly become, some ideas are just too good; too ripe with potential to pass up. Such is the case with “The Duo,” director Tony Hewett’s sprawling and rambunctious pseudo-documentary about a coupla would-be superheros known as “The Terrific Two.” Pop reporter Crystal Parsons (Marie Black) takes it upon herself to track down this oddball duo; legends in their own minds as well as fixtures in everyone’s thoughts, (usually accompanied by a few choice swear words). To her considerable surprise and mild distaste, the intrepid journalist quickly discovers what the rest of the world already seems to know: that Best Man, AKA Rich Tayton (Bill Wise) and Buddy Boy, AKA Billy Robbins (Ryan Wickerham) are at best two highly disturbed, if not downright psychotic individuals.
Before proceeding, it’s only fair to make the obligatory conflict of issues disclosure here. I co-produced the screwball comedy “What I Like About You” with Hewett a couple of years ago. Additionally, virtually everyone in the cast of “The Duo” was also associated with that film; not the least of whom are this film’s three leads. Even so, as those associated with the similarly linked film “American Detective” will grumpily vouch, I do my best to be an objective reviewer. And the verdict on this madcap affair is, to my surprise, actually, generally positive.
As mentioned, the premise is nearly perfect. Just ask Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne how obsessed the citizenry becomes with the private lives of their protectors, and the potential of this film becomes obvious. Potential aside however, there are a number of reasons this farce hits more often than it misses. First and foremost are the hi-octane performances of the leads. Wise, certainly the funniest actor working in Austin, Texas today — are the casting “geniuses” in LA ever going to notice this guy? — and Wickerham, himself a compact concentrate of energy who more than holds his own as the (relatively) straight guy, ably lead Black’s spunky yet understandably befuddled Crystal through their ever more surreal and delusional landscape.
Punctuated by an intermittent assortment of weirdo minor characters and oddball interviews, as well as supplemental comic book pages and colorful animated transitions, (courtesy of Cameron Johnson), “The Duo” is fun and visually engaging. As Wise and Wickerham appear to be furiously ad-libbing riffs, one would surmise that Hewett exerted most of his influence in post; in the film’s slick editing and sparkling CG work. The biggest problem here is trying to keep the joke from becoming too stale. Unfortunately, Wise and Wickerham sometimes have a little too much fun at our expense; rambling on a bit too long and tiring the audience as a result once the novelty wears off.
Still, “The Duo” is a madcap adventure worth checking out, maybe at a comic book store near you.

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