Despite what the major critics may say, Duets is actually a surprisingly good movie, especially in comparison to other ensemble movies such as Valentines Day, New Year’s Eve, etc. Sure it’s slow at many points and drags on probably more than it should. But what ensemble movie doesn’t suffer from this. The story behind the characters is what gives Duets its heart.
While the movie focuses on six characters, the real story behind duets is between that of Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) and Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher). When Todd and Reggie first meet, Reggie had just robbed a trucker with whom he had hitched a ride. Todd, on the other hand was drunk out of his mind, and completely messed up. During the course of their cross country journey to the Karaoke Championships in Omaha, Nebraska, seeing what Todd has let himself become causes Reggie to have a change of heart. Rather than try to rob Todd, Reggie actually becomes reformed in a sense. He even tries to get Todd to see what he is throwing away by getting Todd’s wife to come see the state in which Todd has gotten. In the end, both Todd and Reggie become good friends, leading to quite the bittersweet ending to the movie. Essentially, their story can be summed up in one word: Redemption. Both Reggie and Todd show that redemption is possible in a variety of situations.
The story between Reggie and Todd is the central point of Duets. Some may argue in disagreement over that. But the amount of emphasis placed on their journey makes their story come across as the heart and soul of the movie. That isn’t to say that theirs isn’t the only good story presented here. The story between Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her father, Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) while somewhat weak is a heartwarming one that shows even after such a long time, the pair is able to come together, and be a father and daughter.
Billy’s (Scott Speedman) story is perhaps the weakest link in Duets. Audiences know that his reason for hitting the road was that he came home one day to find that his wife had cheated on him with one of his friends. He ends up running into Suzy Loomis (Maria Bello). Suzy is a karaoke hustler, for all intensive purposes. Audiences don’t really see very much of this story as again, most of the story focuses on Todd and Reggie. That’s honestly perfectly fine. Had the story focused solely on Todd and Reggie, Duets would have been a far better movie than it was with the added storylines. Those extra stories felt more like filler material than anything else. That aside, Reggie and Todd’s story alone gives Duets just enough heart to stand on its own merits. Because of those added stories, most audiences probably don’t “sing” Duets’ praises. But any audience who can see past the extraneous storylines in this movie will see that it does actually have a high note that makes it an enjoyable watch.