Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Directed by Jay Roach
Written by David Guion & Michael Handelman

Dinner for Schmucks director Jay Roach is a familiar face around the comedy world, having helmed numerous notable releases such as Meet the Parents and the Austin Powers series. He even directed the successful, dramatic HBO movie Recount. So there is some experience here, as there is with the cast which includes The Office star Steve Carell and the darling from last years The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis. But the cherry on top is constant charmer, as well as funnyman, Paul Rudd. So what happens when these people get together and restructure the funny French film Le Diner de Cons? Well you get something that gets some laughs, has some heart, and ultimately doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

As the story goes, Tim (Rudd) works at a financial company of some sort and when a better position opens up, he strives to be the one to get the promotion he feels he deserves. In doing so, he is required to partake in a monthly dinner game hosted by the boss in order to prove he is worthy of the promotion that is certainly coming to him. The catch? Each guest is to bring a guest of their own, to make fun of. It is a dinner for idiots and whoever brings the most off the wall, ridiculous idiot wins. So you won’t believe the luck Tim gets when he literally runs into Barry (Carell), who spends his spare time recreating artistic masterpieces using dead mice he finds on the road. Will Barry be the key to Tim’s promotion? Or will he instead blow the cover off the whole dinner party?

The idea behind the film is brilliant, albeit a rehash of a French film. However, many times that is the only way stories like this will be told to American audiences and there is nothing wrong with Carell and Rudd trying their hand at it. Roach and company do strive to make it their own, creating a significantly different story than the original. The problem becomes the type of humor and the way in which it lands on the audience. The first thing to know about comedy is that it is extremely subjective and to each his own sense of humor. In this case, the humor was sparse. When it wasn’t an awkward delivery, it was a joke that fell flat. There were moments when the film was funny and that does not surprise me with the actors involved, but I have also seen them be funnier and do better.

As for the story, which in comedies usually does run more as a set up for the humor, like I said is not bad. However, the way the story unfolds becomes tedious with the twists and turns the film takes due to the antics of Barry. With a film like this, it is important for it to be based in reality. This is not science fiction, so the characters need to be believable. That may sound strange given the ridiculous plot, but if I am to buy what they are selling me, I need to believe that, strange as they may be, these people could exist in real life. I am sorry to say it, but Barry, and his boss, Therman (Galafianakis), cannot be real. Or at least I have not met anyone close to them. The stupidity and tactlessness of Barry goes too far. The film sends a nice message with regard to the proceedings at the end, which is not surprising either, though still nice. But in the end there are too many missed jokes and unbelievable situations to make this film be of note.

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