Sunday, August 01, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Film: Dinner for Schmucks (2010)
Dir: Jay Roach
Rating: *1/2 out of 5 stars

Here is yet another movie supporting the not-so-old adage that remakes never prosper. Jay Roach's latest comedy is an American update of the French film, Le dîner de cons (aka The Dinner Game). While I have not yet seen that film, I hear it is incredibly funny. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Schmucks does not live up. Good actors and a few titter-worthy moments cannot save the film from its own painful awkwardness.

Tim (Paul Rudd) is a corporate drone trying desperately to impress his superiors and move up the ladder. Once he finds his way into their graces, they invite him to a monthly dinner where each invitee must bring an idiot to make fun of. He finds the perfect guest in Barry (Steve Carell), a loser and complete moron who turns dead mice into artwork. However, Tim's girlfriend opposes the dinner, thus putting a strain on their relationship. Meanwhile, Tim fears she may be running around with a sex-crazed artist (Jemaine Clement).

Paul Rudd unwittingly reprises his Role Models character as a guy with a rocky relationship who gets stuck hanging out with a loser, whom he initially hates but eventually considers a friend. Believe me, this is not a spoiler, it's very predictable. Furthermore, we are supposed to sympathize with this character, even though he deserves everything he gets. He makes stupid decisions and is downright mean. Granted, this is the point, but the plot is so formulaic that nobody cares when Tim realizes who the true "schmuck" is.

Carell is barely likable here because he is so misused. He is watered down by lame jokes, and comes across as overwhelmingly obnoxious, so much that he doesn't seem realistic. For most of the movie you just feel sorry for him, especially after Therman (Zack Galifianakis) is introduced. Zack, much like Steve, is misused and consequently not as funny as he usually is. I generally love both of these men but here they come across as excessively silly and childish thanks to a weak script. Lucy Punch is another funny actor wasted on bad writing. At least I liked David Walliams in this, though he plays it straight, mostly. Clement has his good moments, too, although not as hilarious as some people are claiming (Conchords bias, perhaps?).

The titular dinner scene is the best part of the film. A large part of that is probably because this scene involves Chris O'Dowd, who is my favorite performance, despite being in the film for less than 10 minutes. And that's not just IT Crowd bias, I assure you. His cameo as a "schmuck" is pretty great. Him and Barry's incredibly well-made "mouseterpieces" are about the only things worth remembering from this film.

The jokes are lame, childish, and sometimes painfully unfunny. There are too many uncomfortable moments wrongfully disguised as comedy. Jay Roach did the same thing to a lesser degree in Meet the Parents. Schmucks is certainly not unwatchable, it has its amusing moments, but do not waste your time and money seeing this in a theater. You may even want to skip it on DVD if you can find something better. With such a fantastic cast, I would understand if you ignore my advice. Just don't say I didn't warn you.


Hitmandj said...

Nice review, I didnt dislike it as much as you, I'd probably give it 2 stars(not much more obviously). It definitely had the awkward parts just like Meet the Parents(though meet the parents became less awkward upon multiple viewings). I dont feel as though Dinner for Schmucks will have the same luxury.

Sean said...

You didn't really pull any punches with this one, heh. Good review. Like DJ, I also think I liked it more than you. I'd probably give it 2.5, or maybe go as low as 2. I guess that still doesn't do the movie any favors. I'm sure you already know this, but I agree that Chris O'Dowd was the best part by far. This could have been pretty enjoyable given some of the people involved, but they squandered all that talent. :-/