Dinner for Schmucks

11 Aug

Title: Dinner for Schmucks
Year: 2010
Director: Jay Roach
Writers: David Guion and Michael Handelman, based on the play and film by Francis Veber
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Bruce Greenwood, Ron Livingston, Larry Wilmore, Lucy Punch, Kristen Schaal
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
Runtime: 114 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%

Dinner for Schmucks is a remake of the french film The Dinner Game which was released over a decade ago, unfortunately, even though I had huge expectations, this one just wasn’t the comedic feast of awesome I thought it would be, a fact that sucks even more when you consider its two leads, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. These are two of the most likable guys in Hollywood, one is the star of The Office, one of the best TV comedies around for the last half decade, and the other one is the only guy I admit to have a mancrush on, really, Paul Rudd just seems like he’d make an awesome best friend.

Not to say that Dinner for Schmucks is a bad film, because it’s not that at all, it just wasn’t as great as I thought it would be at first. The thing I think put me off the most was that part of the reason the French version was so awesome was because it was just plain cruel, and this one, while still pretty nifty in that aspect, does have this sort of redemption message. And that, while not really that off-putting and pretty much a necessity for a Hollywood film, took something away from the premise that was handled so well by the original.

But again, as I said, Mr. Carell and Mr. Rudd are two of the most likable guys in the film industry nowadays, and two of its most talented comedians as well, and that’s really all this film needed to succeed. Add to that winning recipe a pretty outstanding supporting cast with such immensely funny names like Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Schaal and you know that this film will at least be pretty damn decent, and while it is indeed a shame it didn’t really fulfill it’s entire potential, we know this one could have turned out being way worse.

Steve Carell is a master of this sort of role, the idiot role, because to really play an idiot well one has to be perfect at playing innocent, because that’s the basis for the idiot. Yes, he does this to some extents in The Office, though the character he plays in this one, Barry, is an idiot in the more obvious sense than Michael Scott is, but still, he’s just amazing at playing these roles of guys that seriously don’t have a clue of their idiocy.

The plot is pretty simple and hilariously cruel, Paul Rudd is an up-and-coming businessman, and the arrogant rich guys that run the company he works for organize this yearly dinner to decide who gets a promotion. The catch is that everyone has to bring along the biggest idiot he knows to the dinner party, so that they can make fun of them, the one that brings the idiot that the wealthy guys can make the most fun of gets the promotion. Steve Carell obviously plays the idiot Paul Rudd’s character, Tim, brings to said dinner party, but he’s the real perfect idiot, the sort of idiot who’s amazingly at peace with his idiocy, and seriously impervious to any insults thrown at him.

The other idiots the rest of Tim’s co-workers bring to the dinner party make for an awesome scene at the dinner table which I imagine took quite some time to shoot, but seriously, no one’s a bigger idiot than Barry, the guy who makes dollhouses with dead mice that he dresses in time little costumes (though, to be fair, huge kudos to the guys who actually made these dollhouses, the detail that went into them is amazing). Seriously though, Steve Carell is the guy that made this one work for me, he is amazing as Barry, always with a smile on his face even when he’s doing the moronic things he does, he’s convincing as Barry because he makes Barry be a genuinely happy guy, a guy who doesn’t take insult mostly because I guess he can’t really fathom the idea of it.

As I said this version is a much less cruel version than the French one, because Tim really isn’t the cruel one, I mean, yeah, he took Barry to the dinner party, but it really wasn’t out of cruelty, it was out of his desire to get ahead on the job and, as I said, this one ultimately has a message that redeems Tim, and that’s a message that the French film didn’t have. And it’s not so much that I disliked that message, because I really didn’t and I liked Paul Rudd as Tim because I like him in everything, but there’s something that the French version had in its cruelty that this one lacks.

Dinner for Schmucks does provide a nice quantity of laughs, the cast of idiots assembled at the dinner table is quite amusing in their own very weird distinct ways, but it’s the relationship between Barry and Tim that keeps this one going, the fact that Barry starts by screwing things up for Tim gets the cruelty going, but the fact that Barry is so adorably vulnerable and stupid get this protective side out of Tim and that’s how he comes on top as the nice guy, and his cruel boss as the bad guy and, ultimately, the real idiot. This may not be a great film, but it is pretty damn funny and boasts two awesome actors, and that was enough for me.

Grade: B

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