I can sum up Dinner for Schmucks in one sentence; it’s the stupidest, funniest movie you will see this year. Okay, that was one “clause”, but you know what I mean.
If you don’t know the story, it’s about a man who works with investments and tries to get ahead by bringing the biggest idiot to dinner thus pleasing his boss to get a promotion. Sounds stupid? Oh, it is.
What makes this movie work is a good script and a cast of A-list comedians starting with Steve Carell as the idiot of Paul Rudd’s desire.
Let me break in to say that it took a lot of cajones to use a Yiddish term relating to male genatalia, schmuck, in the title.
I generally don’t find movies that mock groups of people or “idiots” funny. I didn’t like Dumb and Dumber and I didn’t even like Animal House that much. John Belushi was in Animal House, so it was palatable. But I find idiots prancing around to be offensive on so many levels. It’s probably why I don’t like sitcoms like I Love Lucy (although I like Lucille Ball) or Family Guy. Any show that lives off of only stupidity and cruelty doesn’t work for me.
However, Carell is so good in this movie that I had to like it. He put humanity into his role of the simple minded Barry and avoids most of the clichés of the idiot. In many ways, Barry just thinks in a different way and he is not stupid at all. However, Paul Rudd, the man who invites him to this dinner, doesn’t recognize this until it is almost too late.
Paul Rudd is passable. He’s not terrible, but he doesn’t charm the audience. Vince Vaughn was more charming in Dodge Ball, another stupid but funny film, than Rudd is here.
Again we have a movie romance that makes no sense. Rudd is trying to get his girlfriend Julie to agree to marry him throughout the film and this schmuck dinner in essential to that end. However, other than being not bad looking, we don’t see any reason Julie would want to be with Tim (Paul Rudd). Julie (Stephanie Szostak) is very good looking, but her character is whiny and annoying. I am not sure it’s the fault of the acting or the script, but I think it was a little bit of both. The audience is just supposed to believe they are in love because they say so, but it’s not working.
The comedian cast is another thing. In addition to Carell as Barry, there is the brilliant Jemaine Clement, a multitalented New Zealander with the French Name, as the creative genius alternative artist Kieran with the animal magnetism. He has the funniest lines in the movie and he delivers. “Animals are not monogamous, very few are like the penguin”, he tells Tim. “Julie is a lioness. You can not mate your penguin to this lioness.” That is more or less what he says, and in the context of the film, it is a great line.
Lucy Punch is worth noting, in more ways than one, for her funny role as Darla, the obsessive one night stand of Tim’s who is still after him. Her over the top obsession with Tim worked because she is a bit crazy, and he is a jerk we don’t feel sorry for. Whether it was the role, the fact that she was into spanking, or her acting, she was a delight to watch. And the crazier she gets, the more we want to watch her. Think of a bloody car artfully overturned with a designer’s touch and you will get close to her role in the movie.
There are some very funny scenes and lines in this movie, and it is more than just a series of disconnected bits. There is a build up in the madness that only a film could do.
The plot points were predictable, but done well. There was no stretching out of the inevitable reconciliation scenes and Tim’s realization that he is the real schmuck in the movie. The only surprise is that the director didn’t over play those scenes and thus he didn’t ruin the film. Other outcomes were easily predicted, but journey was to the end was chock full of laughs.
Overall rating: matinee.
It’s hilarious moments don’t completely make up for the predictable buddy film and the uninteresting love story. However, the humor keeps the film from being a total waste of time. Bonus points for Carell once more being the funniest person in the movie.