Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
|Featuring||Steve Carell (Barry), Paul Rudd (Tim Wagner), Stephanie Szostak (Julie), Jemaine Clement (Kieran Vollard), Zach Galifianakis (Therman), Chris O'Dowd (Marco Blind Swordsman), Lucy Punch (Darla), Octavia Spencer (Nora Pet Psychic), Bruce Greenwood (Fender), See all »|
|Producer||DreamWorks SKG, Paramount Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Jon Poll, Jay Roach, Amy Sayres|
“Takes one to know one”
Sometimes you can have everything in place and things still don’t work out. You can have all the ingredients for a five star meal, but it tastes like decent fast food. You can have two of the most popular comedic actors, with a director whose films have made over a billion dollars, but, for some reason,the parts are better than the sum. That, unfortunately, is the case with “Dinner for Schmucks.”
Based on a French film called “The Dinner Game” (1998), “Dinner for Schmucks” centers around Tim played by comic everyman Paul Rudd, a mid-level employee at a gigantic company. Tim is dying for a promotion, so that he will have the money he thinks he needs to marry his girlfriend. While his work has started to impress his boss, Tim faces one more obstacle. His boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), has a dinner every month in which each of his executives try to bring the biggest idiot to dinner. Lance wants Tim to find an idiot and attend the dinner to prove he is worthy of the promotion.
While, initially, Tim resists the urge to humiliate someone for his own betterment, soon enough, his greed takes over, after he literally runs across Barry (played by Steve Carell of “The Office”). Barry is unique, to say the least. He works for the IRS, but he’s, also, a taxidermist who makes murals out of stuffed mice, calling them “mousterpieces.” One mishap after another lead us to the big dinner where Tim has to decide whether or not to go through with his plan.
Hearing about this movie, you have to think that it can’t help but be funny. It’s got two proven comedic leads, a funny plot, as well as an exceptional supporting cast. Maybe that’s why I left the theater somewhat disappointed. Despite not being nearly as funny as I expected, it also seemed to drag in places. The dinner itself, that the title references, is a riot. It’s very humorous, but it takes “Dinner for Schmucks” over an hour and a half just to get to said dinner. Also, while Steve Carell has some hilarious scenes, most of the time, he just seems to be doing a more goofy, unaware version of his “Office” character Michael Scott, a character that isn’t nearly as funny as it used to be 6 years ago.
The humor in “Dinner for Schmucks” may appeal to you if you are a big fan of “Meet The Parents” or any other work based on awkward, cringe inducing, or gross out humor. A lot of times, when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. They get much worse. Some of these bits come off as hilarious, while others fall flat. When the bits are funny, it’s usually thanks to the supporting cast, which includes the likes of Zack Galifinakis of “The Hangover” and Jemaine Clement from the cult TV series “Flight of the Conchords.” These two actors get more laughs from their limited material than Carell does from his vast amount of screen time. From a filmmaking stand point, it’s the kind of inconsistency that keeps this movie from being recommended.
On a content level, “Dinner for Schmucks” is pretty much business as usual for director Jay Roach. Famous for the “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” movie series, Roach’s films always contain a great deal of sexual situations, innuendo, and dialogue, but they always manage to just qualify for a PG-13 rating. This movie is no different. While there are no sex scenes or nudity, scantily clad women and graphic sexual dialogue make numerous appearances throughout. The use of foul language isn’t rampant, but heavy vulgarity and profanity doe make appearances [God (4), Jesus (2), 1 f-word, 7 s-words, etc.].
Underneath the content and inconsistency problems, there is a heart to “Dinner for Schmucks”. Ultimately, the film is a lot less about the dinner itself and more about an unlikely budding friendship between the two leads. There are more heartfelt moments than one might expect, and the lead character realizes the error of his ways. While a redemptive ending and some funny moments are nice, they don’t make up for what ends up being a missed opportunity to knock one out of the park.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Extreme