Dinner for Schmucks
Directed by: Jay Roach Cast: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 30, 2010
PLOT: In order to snag a coveted promotion, business man Tim (Rudd) must find a "guest" (Carell) for a dinner hosted by his boss that gives the spotlight to the world's biggest idiots.
WHO'S IT FOR? While the story may guide itself towards a dinner scene, don’t expect too much sophistication. And the title may also advertise a plural amount of “schmucks,” but don’t write this off as a positively dumb movie just yet. Dinner for Schmucks is a moderately smart movie that exercises idiotic humor. That being said, the movie is also for mouse taxidermists everywhere.
EXPECTATIONS: It’s been five years since Carell and Rudd had an outing together (40 Year Old Virgin). Since then they’ve been making both credible and less-credible funny flicks. Would a combination of the Apatow veterans be for the greater good of comedy?
Paul Rudd as Tim: With the way the accessible Rudd performs here, you’d think this was an I Love You, Man sequel entitled, I Love You, Moron. Rudd continues to wear the shoes he has cobbled for himself with characters like Peter Klaven (from I Love You, Man), and this character even follows the same blueprint structure. He’s a warm up-and-coming business man caught in a strange situation with sometimes obtrusive “help” coming from a person he is oddly paired with. When things start to lose control because of the “help” provided by his odd new friend, he aims to hold together a relationship with a one-dimensional female lead. Especially here, Rudd still can’t sell a romance without coming off a fake plastic love interest. As with I Love You, Man, this feature isn’t at the center of the character, but the attempts at providing heart into the story just make him seem all the more stock. Score: 5
Steve Carell as Barry: Continually proven with his lovable dolt Michael Scott on “The Office,” Carell has proven that he is a master of the idiot. Whether this role is a walk in the park for him or not, it doesn’t matter. He spins many of the scenes that feature his inept ways into comedic gold (or at least silver), and creates this smiling and wide-eyed IRS tax agent to be quite endearing. Constantly thinking in one track, he is also open to discovery, something that lends itself towards one of the funniest on-screen characters this summer. His boisterous laughter (“He’s eating paper!!!”) is contagious, and so is the fun that Carell has with playing this role. Score: 7
Jemaine Clement as Kieran: Again, Clement plays the idiot with his head up his artistic a**hole, much like how he sarcastically self-indulged in Gentlemen Broncos. To some of Clement’s defense, this wildly self-indulgent character isn’t meant to bring any new layer to the parody of the modern artist, but just to continue comedy’s mission of mocking up pretentious schmucks. The crazy nature of his creations is his most amusing aspect – you’ll laugh more at his art than his actual presence. Score: 6
Zach Galifianakis as Therman: The bearded comedian is slightly disorienting in this role, for a couple of reasons. One, though we may be used to him as a strong co-star in movies like The Hangover, he’s only on-screen for bits at a time. Second, he’s very intense in this movie, playing an over-the-top wannabe mind-controller. His humor is more subtle, and Galifianakis looks like he’s channeling his more dramatic skills into a role played for ridiculous fodder. Score: 5
TALKING: A lot of the humor comes from the language of sarcasm – and whether the “schmuck” in question picks up on it or not. It’s a key point in this comedy that divides the “intelligent” from the not-so-intelligent. The sexual humor in Dinner for Schmucks, which at times can be quite adult for a PG-13 rating, is tackled by means of awkward conversation that make for a couple of very funny exchanges. Score: 8
SIGHTS: The cast features a mix of comedians, from the seasoned Carell and Rudd working with the “blossoming” talents of Nick Kroll, Jeff Dunham, and even Zach Galifianakis, for example. For those of a certain dryness of humor, the opening credit sequence may stand as the funniest of its kind this year. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The underrated Beatles tune “A Fool on the Hill” receives prominent usage twice in the movie (once during the hilarious but also sentimental opening sequence). Sondre Lerche contributes an original song of his own, "Dear Laughing Doubters," for the opening credits. The obligatory montage in which the friendship between Barry and Tim reaches a downfall is accompanied by a song with one lyric - "Doo." With movies usually using a mellow song that is equally brainless, it's fitting for Dinner for Schmucks to embrace this idea. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: There are many moments when the script’s desire to create naturally awkward scenarios provides a big laugh or three, but the brunch scene with Tim’s potential client and his wife has Barry blurting out his best lines, causing the story to spiral even more out of control.
ENDING: Dead mice are brought into play one last time to provide a tight epilogue that plays out before the credits roll, and after they are done. There's a short tag that can be seen right before the lights come up.
QUESTIONS: You’ve got all of these comedians, and no outtakes? Also, Sacha Baron Cohen was originally set to star in the film (I think). Which character would he have played? Clement's?
REWATCHABILITY: During a second serving of Dinner for Schmucks, I’m sure I’d laugh a fair amount, even though I'd know of the joke concepts ahead of time. Maybe I can find a buddy to share this laughing experience with -- at the screening, my fellow pad-and-paper homies were notably less amused.
As writer/director Billy Wilder once said in both Some Like It Hot and later his own gravestone, “Nobody’s perfect.” Despite whatever successes or proud IQs we may have supporting our self-esteem, we all have our moments of idiocy, some of them more shakable than others. And while there may be eccentrics like Carell’s Barry living a life of blissful idiocy, he further proves the fact that everyone is at least smart at something.
Dinner for Schmucks isn’t perfect either. At times, the movie can take shortcuts to either create or resolve a situation, such as the overall romantic dilemma, and Rudd, who is usually quite charismatic, isn’t very special here. Since there’s only one main dinner to be had, the movie spends much of the film building up to the single event, but worry not – Carell’s awesomely funny stupidity guides a group of pre-main meal “schmucks” like old flame Darla (Lucy Punch) and artist Keiran through a clever course of events that provide plenty of brainless humor before we even get to the piece de resistance. Whether the movie is dragging itself out its nearly two-hour runtime, it doesn’t matter. Dinner for Schmucks plays into the realm of absurd cartoonish humor so well that you can’t help but channel your inner idiot and enjoy.
“Nobody’s perfect,” right? So laugh, stupid.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10