Review: ‘Dinner for Schmucks’

Thursday, July 29 by

Dinner for Schmucks
PG-13, 104m., 2010
Cast Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Bruce Greenwood, Ron Livingston, Stephanie Szostack, Lucy Punch, David Walliams with Jemaine Clement, and Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Jay Roach
Screenplay by David Guion and Michael Handleman based upon the film “Le Diner de Cons” by Francis Vendor

Dinner For Schmucks invites us to a meal with some of our favorite comedic people, but only servers about half the laughs prepared and sends us home hungry looking for the stale peanut butter jar in the cupboard.

The film is a remake of the popular French comedy “Le Diner de Cons," where a group of rich executives hold a dinner once a month and each brings the most idiotic guest to the table. A concept on its own that could only be funny for a sketch or two on "Saturday Night Live" but not an entire 104 minutes.

Yet this is the challenge for new executive Tim (Paul Rudd at his usual upper middle class leading self) to bring to the table, and boy does he find one in Barry (Steve Carell at his usual hyper-active best), who along with turning every normal conversation into complete disaster, also has a thing for making dead mice into art pieces – something that is funny for five minutes but goes on for far too long.

A major problem with Schmucks is the idiots dinner comes so late into the movie that it almost seems like an afterthought. We spend a good hour following Barry as he makes everything in Tim’s almost perfect life a living hell. As we are introduced to several different characters from Tim’s beautiful girlfriend (Stephanie Szotech), business partners (Ron Livingston and Bruce Greenwood), Swedish millionaire (David Walliams of "Little Britain") and a series of bizarre freakshow characters that are paper thin. 

The freakshows that stick out the most are avant-garde artist Kieran (Jemaine Clement from "Flight of The Concords" in a show stealing performance), psycho ex-girlfriend Darla (Lucy Punch) and douche tax boss Therman (Zach Galifianakis always doing his borderline ‘retard’ best). Only one becomes a guest at the idiots dinner, making many of their scenes funny, but not organic to any part of the actual story.

Director Jay Roach brings his specialty of making the best out of awkward dinner conversation as he tries to recreate his 2000 hit Meet the Parents here, but is bogged too far down in a script hashed together by scribing team David Guion and Michael Handleman, all of which should know how to kick up the heart and story up a notch.

The only one that seems to be break free from the formulaic script is Clement as artist Kieran, who kicks away the banality of these characters with his hilariously grotesque paintings and odd, spiritual love advice. This is the breakthrough performance for Clement just like Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Zach Galifinakis in The Hangover, for every time he comes on screen you wish the movie would follow his comedic adventures instead of this typical bromance.

Dinner for Schmucks has some good laughs to satisfy a summer plate full of failed acts, but it cannot compete with many of the other bromantic comedies being made today. It needs a lot more pepper and spice in its preparation to make it titillate your brain palette.

Grade: C+