Dinner for Schmucks Review

This is funnier than it looks...

Dinner for Schmucks left me somewhat conflicted. Was the script good? Not particularly. Could the movie have been better? Much. Did I laugh so hard I almost cried? Many, many times.

Dinner for Schmucks tells the story of Tim (Paul Rudd), an analyst at a major company who’s looking to get a promotion. He wows his bosses in a meeting and gets said promotion… conditionally. The bosses (whose ranks include a scene stealing Larry Wilmore) hold a special dinner once a month, to which each of them brings a special guest. The guest has to be a completely oblivious idiot with a special skill who the bosses basically laugh at the whole night. The biggest idiot gets a trophy. Tim is invited to the dinner and is, at first, appalled. Later, he accidentally hits a taxidermist/IRS agent named Barry (Steve Carell) with his car and becomes instantly fascinated. As Tim later tries to explain, when an opportunity that rare throws itself in your face, you’d have to be an idiot not to take it. And so Tim invites Barry to dinner.

The titular dinner, as you might have guessed, is the film’s climax. However, the entire film seems to take place in a period of time a little over 24 hours. In a movie filled to the proverbial brim with inane characters, it is perhaps the timing that seems like the least believable aspect. Still, if you can get passed that, Dinner for Schmucks is pretty damn funny.

The writing, as I said earlier, is nothing remarkable. However, the delivery by the actors is simply divine. The ensemble cast of hollywood’s weirdest and most entertaining left me unable to decide which character was the most outrageously brilliant. Was it Steve Carell’s disaster-inducing taxman? Or maybe Zach Galifianakis’ audit-happy mind controller? Or Jemaine Clement’s narcissistic sex-crazy artist?

While all three are truly fantastic, these over the top performances lead me to one of my major complaints with the movie: Paul Rudd. He has proven time and again that he can be really funny (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man both spring to mind) but he is once again relegated to the straight man role he finds himself in entirely too often.

(as a side note: Stephanie Szostak, who plays Rudd’s girlfriend Julie is completely wonderful and it’s difficult not to fall madly in love with her in nearly every scene she’s in)

Other than that, there’s the simple fact that Dinner for Schmucks is never as mean or hilariously cruel as it could have been. As a matter of fact, it’s a fairly predictable (in terms of plot, but definitely not character) romp through formulaic comedy cliches with many major story points coming across as crazy coincidences never fully explained or seemingly even cared about (the deus ex machina rule of comedy reigns supreme here).

Schmucks also has a great deal more heart than the trailers would have you believe. There are many moments in the movie’s second half that will leave you wondering whether you should laugh at or pity the characters presented. Is it predictable? Somewhat. Is it well done? Yes.

Overall though, I’d recommend Dinner for Schmucks to just about anyone looking for a stupidly funny movie to unwind from the rigors of more intense films (i.e. Inception). I’ll give it an arguably generous B+.


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