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Under Review: ‘Dinner for Schmucks’

— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —

I just concluded my reading of a several response discussion on the topic of Jay Roach’s “Dinner for Schmucks,” in which the original author stated that the film is “destined to be the meanest movie ever” because he believes that the plot is “just about exploiting stupid people.”

Well, my beloved internet user, I’m sorry but I wholeheartedly disagree and the basis for my argument is quite simple. “Dinner for Schmucks” can’t be the meanest movie known to man for two reasons. For one, it isn’t relevant enough to even be remembered by most audiences, and secondly, many films have already capitalized on much more delicate issues – such as “Inglorious Basterds,” which basically took arguably the most testing time in human history and added a soldier with a funny accent for comedic spice.

But though Roach’s latest endeavor isn’t as memorable as his “Meet the Parents,” which combined upbeat humor with relatability, “Dinner for Schmucks” still sports an abundance of tenderness, even through its plot, which some would define as downright cruel. However, the film does maintain a certain level of raunchy humor – well, raunchy for a PG-13 rating – which is competently executed by the film’s two leads – Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.

The basic plot of the film is as follows: Tim (Rudd), a rising executive must find the best idiot he can for one of his boss’s extravaganzas, which he calls “the dinner for idiots.” Of course, Tim’s boss dangles a much-needed promotion in front his eyes in order for him to comply. Luckily, Tim meets Barry (Carell), an IRS employee who proves himself worthy of the title “best idiot,” as he casually and accidentally destroys not only Tim’s relationship to Julie (Stephanie Szostak), an art dealer who Tim wants to marry but also his chances of nailing a multi-million dollar deal with a esteemed Swedish businessman.

David Guion and Michael Handleman, who are the film’s screen-writers, do a decent job at pacing and character development; however, there are moments where some of the film’s supporting characters overstay their welcome and one such example is that of Lucy Punch’s character, Darla, one of Tim’s ex-lovers who remains secret to Julie but who also insists on stalking Tim’s every move. Her character is simply annoying, poorly acted, and she herself is worthy of being called “best idiot.” However, Punch’s character isn’t the only thing that should have been cut from the final script. The entire romance between Tim and Julie is just unbelievable as Szostak and Rudd share absolutely no chemistry and the screen time that they share is absolutely dreadful. It seems as if both actors are awe-struck for some reason and this makes it look like they’re reading directly off of a teleprompter. But I did find Jemaine Clement’s character, Kieran, quite interesting for some unknown reason — perhaps it’s due to the idiosyncratic portraits that Kieran, who is presented as a modern artist, proudly displays.

Guion and Handleman also take too much time setting up the much-anticipated dinner scene, which ultimately lasts about 20 minutes, through mediocre plot devices and slapstick humor. However, Carell and Rudd prove themselves worthy as comedic actors and their charisma is a real driving mechanism for the film’s likability.

Rudd is pretty much asked to play the straight-faced businessman, but through some sort of miracle, Tim is extremely easy to cheer for, even if he is exploiting the more lovable Barry.

Now, Barry struck me as a tortured artist. The film stresses his talents in creating miniature set-pieces using dead mice and how he is looked down upon because of it. He also mispronounces third-grade level words, is gullible, and just isn’t the brightest bulb in the box. However, his artistic abilities are quite another story. Barry communicates his pain through his masterpieces and this becomes evident when we, as the audience, are presented with the key-fact that his wife left him for Zach Galifianakis’ character, Therman, who believes that he is a master in mind control. It’s extremely easy to overlook the serious undertones and insight within Barry’s entire character because it is just preprocessed with cartoonish acts of stupidity. However, this slight glimmer of genius in the character is what attracted me to Barry all the way into the film’s credits.

In all, “Dinner for Schmucks” packs its plate with too many unnecessary side-plots and annoying supporting characters that it leaves only a decent amount of space for the meat, which is by far the most important part of any cinematic meal. However, it still remains fulling for any movie-lover searching for a cutesy and uplifting comedy.

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3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Adam Poynter #
    1

    I whole heartedly concur. Such big expectations for this movie with two comedic All Stars like Rudd and Carell, but just like the expectations for Date Night due to the stars I was dissapointed with this movie. There were parts that I did laugh at and a few one liners Ill have to remember to use in the future, over all the film was ho-hum. I was surrounded by tweens and they all laughed hysterically all the time, but obviously I have out grown my giggle stage cause I had no idea why they laughed at certain parts that werent funny. Too many side characters, not enough chemistry between Rudd and his onscreen gf and just a slow dry script. And am I the only one that thought Rudd’s character was the same guy, but with a name change from who he played in I Love You Man? Now that, was a funny movie!

  2. Ashley #
    2

    It’s an OK movie.

  3. David #
    3

    I caught this the other night. Decent little flick – nothing more.