He is detoured by a phone call and travels to Las Vegas for the funeral of an old friend. While there, he meets up with long-lost daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow), who decides she wants to join him on the road.
When he gets home, his wife Candy (Kiersten Warren) and two kids are too self-absorbed to even say hello. Todd goes out for a pack of cigarettes, gets sidetracked and discovers karaoke. In the process he makes a new friend, hitchhiker Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), a convict on the lam. Woods tells Reggie what he feels is wrong:
We also meet Billy (Scott Speedman), a young man who drives a cab and finds himself involved with sexy Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello). She's on her way to California in a hurry. At first, Billy does not want to help, but Suzi says:
Ultimately, karaoke becomes the vehicle through which this eclectic bunch begin to discover just what it is they're looking for. All roads lead to Omaha, site of a national karaoke competition where this motley group of singers come together -- along with the police -- for a blow-out sing-off.
The characters use both music and the people they meet in the karaoke bars as a way to alleviate the pressures of life and in the process connect with one another. Each displays unique talents while performing many well-known cover songs throughout the film.
Brad Pitt was first cast in Speedman's role, but, after he and Gwyneth Paltrow announced the end of their off-camera romance, Pitt decided not to take the role.
Critic Bob Graham, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, liked the spirit of the film and the acting, and he wrote, "Cut 'Duets' some slack. This is an appealing, and ultimately moving, ensemble comedy/drama about ordinary folks whose one chance at anything resembling stardom is a karaoke contest...The fable style is a fragile one. The Ally McBeal test probably applies here. Fans of that show are likely to give themselves over to Duets, too.
Overall, a lot of critics echoed Stephanie Zacharek's review in Salon.com. She wrote, "Its three interlocking stories don't find the right rhythmic balance, and some of the dialogue is stiff and mannered." Zacharek did praise the acting and the film's message. She added, "In that respect, the way Duets treats its characters is refreshing. There are brief moments when it reminds us that plenty of people enjoy karaoke at the expense of their audience (during one scene an Asian businessman warbles tunelessly in the background), but Duets isn't out to make anyone look ridiculous.
The film was first presented at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2000. When released, Duets suffered at the box-office. The first week's gross sales at the box-office was $2,002,588 (581 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $4,734,235.
In its widest release the film was featured in 583 theaters and the film was in circulation seven weeks.The production budget was $16,000,000.
The actors who sang their own tunes in the film, and included in the CD, are: Huey Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Giamatti, and Maria Bello. Arnold McCuller sings all of Andre Braugher's songs including Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," performed a cappella.
The soundtrack spawned two hit singles in Australia, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis' "Cruisin'" spending two weeks at #1 on the Australian singles chart, and Paltrow's "Bette Davis Eyes" peaking at #3.