Old 07-30-2010, 10:14 AM
Jay Roach's Dinner for Schmucks

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Here's a film I've been dreading ever since the first trailers and TV spots started rolling. They made this film look like it was going to be something of an agonizing experiencing what with having to watch Steve Carell act like an idiot for an entire movie, and since he's usually not particularly funny anyway, it could have been just that. This made it all the more surprising that the film was actually amusing and provided a lot of good, solid laughs.

Tim (Paul Rudd) is trying his best to get a promotion at work after the recent dismissal of one of his colleagues. In order to impress his boss, Lance (Bruce Greenwood), he comes up with an idea that will draw a large account to their company. Lance ends up being so impressed with Tim that he invites him to dinner, but this is no ordinary dinner. It's a kind of event that Lance and the other execs put on where they each bring a "special" person along with them, all for the purpose of making fun of them. In other words, it's a dinner for idiots.

Despite the objections of his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak), Tim wants to impress his boss again so that he can guarantee the promotion. As coincidence would have it, Tim hits Barry (Steve Carell) with his car. Barry has a strange hobby of collecting dead mice and arranging them in famous scenes or paintings such as the "Last Supper" and the "Mona Lisa." Barry is also not too bright in the head, which gives Tim the idea of bringing him to the dinner, but as he soon learns, Barry is a lot to handle.

I really was quite impressed with how funny this film ended up being. For once, the trailers didn't take all the funny parts of the film and condense it into two and a half minutes. In fact, they ended up not ruining a single one, for I didn't find the trailers the least bit amusing, leading to my initial hesitation regarding this film. Hopefully the false marketing won't cost the studio too much.

The sense of humor this film entails is just bizarre. The posing of the dead mice is just the start. It has the full range of gags from the visual to slapstick to verbal. Most of it ends up working despite the fact that a lot of it ends up getting really silly at times. I say "most" of it works because it does have its fair share of really stupid jokes (not in a stupid-funny way like a lot of the material) that end up falling flat, but luckily they don't hurt the film too much.

The performances are what make a lot of the material work as well as it does. Steve Carell is able to pull off a lot of the comic timing that the jokes require. There are times where he does get annoying, mostly for the sections that end up falling flat, but overall, he does a good job with the role. He could have easily gone "full retard," but he holds it back to a level that makes it work.

Paul Rudd, whose last good movie was the surprisingly hilarious "I Love You, Man," plays his role pretty straightforward. Most of his humorous parts come from the extremely awkward situations that Barry puts him in including giving out his address to a woman he had a one night stand with and a brunch that goes horribly wrong. His straight-faced desperation through these trials get him some pretty good laughs.

One of the parts that could have used a little work was the climactic dinner. The whole film has been building up to it and yet a lot it curiously falls flat. That's not to say that it all did; it actually has some very amusing parts to it, but it never equaled anything that had already come before it.

Still, due to the great amount of laughs involved, "Dinner for Schmucks" is worth a recommendation. Don't believe the misleading trailers. There's more to laugh at than they would have you believe. Basically what we have here is an interesting satire of classes, and I've only recently learned that it was based on a French film called "The Dinner Game." Something tells me I'm going to have to check that out as well. 3/4 stars.
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