Tom Sims, Executive Director of the Cape May Film Society, reviews “Dinner for Schmucks”
What does it take to be funny? The right situation, precise comedic timing, flawless acting? Sure, but also something more. How about the mob mentality? Nothing makes you laugh more at a movie than a hundred people joining you. In Dinner for Schmucks, starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, having an audience laughing with you definitely helps.
Dinner for Schmucks is a remake of a reportedly better-executed French film called The Dinner Game. Tim (played by Rudd) is an upwardly-mobile executive invited to a special dinner where participants bring… well, they bring an idiot. The goal is to win the prize for bringing the biggest idiot. Essentially, this is what will catapult Tim to the “seventh floor” an envious spot to all his sixth-floor colleagues. Tim’s girlfriend, Julie (beautifully played by Stephanie Szostak) does not like the idea, and Tim assures her he’s not going to participate. But he does. Especially since he just happens to (literally) run into Barry (played by Carell), a taxidermist who creates 3D vignettes using dead mice.
Clearly it does not take a tightly-crafted storyline or strong character development to be funny, as both are woefully lacking. The story unfolds clumsily, and I found myself rolling my eyes at the blatant disregard for quality storytelling. About two thirds into the film, when it became apparent they were actually going to have a dinner scene I rolled my eyes again and whined, “They’re really going to make me sit through a dinner scene?”
Carell and Rudd do what they always do in this film – Carell the idiot and Rudd the straight man, but it’s the great supporting cast that makes the movie watchable. Zach Galifianakis plays Therman, Carell’s boss at the IRS who uses mind-control techniques. Jermaine Clement plays Kieran, an artist managed by Rudd’s girlfriend; his extreme art and lifestyle get big laughs.
Just when the film shows the slightest indication that it will rise above its own silliness to become, oh, I don’t know, poignant, it reverts back to garnering laughter at any expense. In a theater with an audience that laughs with you, it actually is pretty funny. Renters beware: if you wait for the DVD and watch this alone, don’t expect to get the joke. Maybe we’ll screen the French version of this film here in town. Let us know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.