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Dinner for Schmucks

A 2010 comedy movie directed by Jay Roach.

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A Mean Film About Mean People

  • Aug 4, 2010
I'm missing something here. I understand that the real schmucks of "Dinner for Schmucks" are played by Bruce Greenwood, Larry Wilmore, and Ron Livingston, not Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, and that means I should be able to see how certain characters and plot elements are ultimately redeemed. So then why do I still feel that this movie is ugly, spiteful, and profoundly unfunny? How is it that I cannot bring myself to feel anything for the characters I'm supposed to have feelings for? What is the one element that makes such unpleasantness okay to sit through? What am I failing to see? Many have been praising "Dinner for Schmucks" for its slapstick comedy and its representation of character, but to me, it's a deep mystery, raising the question of how anyone could ever find it entertaining.

Perhaps it all has to do with the underlying premise, which is so mean-spirited that no amount of broad humor could make me look past it. In the film, a group of high powered executives, all arrogant, hold an annual dinner party in which they showcase the dumbest people they can find, people who all claim to have special talents and seem to enjoy flaunting them. To me, this isn't comedy, but rather a study in human cruelty. It doesn't matter that the joke is on the executives and not on the guests; the fact that they're all too stupid to realize how badly they're being treated only makes the movie's idea that much more depressing. Why? Because, even after the dinner is over, they will continue to live in a state of hopeless ignorance. This is no way to live. This is just plain sad.

Such a person is IRS employee Barry Speck (Carell), who always displays big toothy grins and seems to enjoy laughing a lot. He literally doesn't have a clue. He does things without really thinking them through first. He makes the lives of those around him a living hell, although he believes he's actually helping them, which I guess is to be expected since this is a comedy of errors. I suspect I was supposed to like this character, especially at the end of the film. That's the problem - I didn't like him one bit. His ignorance was annoying. His sweet natured clumsiness was infuriating. And then there's his "talent," which is collecting dead mice, having them stuffed and dressed in various tiny costumes, and then posing them in highly detailed dioramas and model scenes. I'm sorry, but I find this incredibly disturbing.

The plot, which is adapted from the French film "Le Dîner de Cons" (itself adapted from a play), begins with Tim Conrad (Rudd), a financial executive clawing his way up the corporate ladder, his latest negotiation with a wealthy Swiss businessman (David Walliams) having gone well. Impressed, Tim's boss, Lance Fender (Greenwood), invites him to take part in the aforementioned dinner. Lo and behold, he literally rams into Barry, who then clings to Tim like a dog who has just found a new best friend. Over the course of a day, a night, and a brunch, Barry systematically ruins Tim's life. He mistakenly reintroduces him to an ex-girlfriend (Lucy Punch), a stalker so frightening it's a wonder Tim never tried filing a restraining order. This, in turn, jeopardizes his relationship with his current girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), who is never ready to say yes when he proposes to her.

Despite the title, the dinner isn't seen until the very end, at which point the plot's unflinching cruelty left me mentally drained. This is bad because the dinner is one of relentless absurdity - everything and everyone involved is so unbelievably silly that I just couldn't process it anymore. Over the course of this scene, we see a ventriloquist that thinks his dummy is his wife, a blind swordsman, a dead animal medium (who reacts grotesquely to her lobster dinner), and Barry's boss (Zach Galifinakis), a man who believes he has the ability to control people's minds; with such a large gathering of odd, goofy people, the scene becomes a chaotic free-for-all, one that very quickly becomes unappealing and unfunny.

Knowing that Fender and his cronies are heartless, knowing that the invited idiots are too idiotic to understand that they're idiots, and knowing that Tim went along with it all for the sake of getting ahead in business, I simply cannot bring myself to say anything nice about "Dinner for Schmucks." Why is this? The ending is one of sweet - albeit twisted - redemption, which means I should be able to look past everything that made my skin crawl. But some movies are just too nasty for their own good, and no amount of last-minute hopefulness can gloss over that. It's a story about mean people doing mean things, and as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't qualify as entertainment. I felt sad leaving the theater, and I secretly hoped that the filmmakers would someday understand just how wrong their efforts were.

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January 10, 2011
I kinda liked this one. Yeah, I can see that the film was incredibly flawed but I had some good laughs with it. Nice review though.
January 10, 2011
I admit that I pretty much stand alone in my feelings for this film. I've always been opposed to comedies founded on cruelty. But hey, we are statistically obligated to disagree 14 to 15% of the time.
January 10, 2011
....but now we just agreed to disagree at times LOL! so I guess that is now 13% of the time. Sorry, I am feeling rather crazy ....must be the lack of movies all day. =)
More Dinner for Schmucks reviews
review by . July 31, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ Stars: We All Play the
schmuck- a stupid or contemptible person; oaf      Let’s be honest, all of us have played the role of ‘schmuck’ at one time or another. I have played a ‘schmuck’ and so has most folks (don‘t deny it) and I have often played the fool (remember the song?). Well, director Jay Roach seems to bring out the definition of a ‘schmuck’ into focus with his remake of the 1998 French film “Le Diner de Cons” in this Hollywood film …
review by . September 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Comedy is subjective. Many different people have many different tastes. Some enjoy smart comedies with more of a touch of satire, others pride themselves on broader comedies anyone can enjoy, and yet some prefer dark comedies with a lot of edge. I have to say Dinner for Schmucks fits into the mold of a general comedy that a lot of people can enjoy, and I’m personally thankful as they could have made a really made a snarky, mean-spirited movie and instead gave us tons of laughs …
review by . November 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****      They say that the best idiots can also make the best characters at times. Idiots can either be plain annoying or actually funny, in spite of the circumstances. Steve Carrel is a truly likable and brutally funny idiot in “Dinner for Schmucks”, a silly, goofy, yet undeniably funny comic romp. The actors essentially use what they’ve got to good effect, and the humor is typically effective. It is in fact one of the funnier comedies of the year, …
review by . August 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I watch a lot of movies, but mostly I watch them when they come out on Showtime or Cinemax. If I go to the actual movie theater, it is usually for something that I think will not translate quite so well to my  television. So, how did I end up at Dinner for Schmucks? I was trying to see Inception...but after 30 minutes of a broken projector, they handed out free movie passes and tickets for popcorn and drinks and sent us on out way into a movie of our choice. The next showtime for Scott Pilgrim …
Quick Tip by . January 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I'm bummed to say I didn't like this movie because i really enjoy the comedy of Steve Carell and Zack Galifinacis (sp?).  This movie was just way too slow in the beginning and middle.  It kind of made me feel the same way i did watching Cable Guy... One guy just wants friends so badly but is such an idiot.  It's just kind of sad to me and not very funny.  The final dinner scene had a couple laughs in it (I had to fast forward to get to it because it was so painfully …
Quick Tip by . January 09, 2011
Good grief. I'm finding it hard to believe that such a likeable guy as Paul Rudd can topline so many forgettable features, but, sadly, DINNER fits that bill, too. How did one film manage to corral so many funny people into a horrifically unfunny script? Come the end of the picture, I was unsure of whether I was supposed to feel elated that the film was over or to feel sorry for all the players. Horribly uneven, DINNER plays out like a bad dream or, at least, major indigestion.
review by . August 14, 2010
I saw Dinner for Schmucks in a totally empty theater populated only by me and my youngest. This is a good thing since I found myself in convulsive laughter as close to actually rolling on the floor laughter as I've seen in years.    As suggested by the title a person looking to climb in a company impresses the boss who invites him to a special "dinner" where each person brings an idiot and the winner is the one who produces the biggest loser.    The writing …
review by . August 02, 2010
If only modestly skilled performers had been cast in DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, the film would have been a mess...tonally inconsistent, with a sloppy plot and a final 15 minutes of pure ludicrousness (is that a word?)    Fortunately, the film stars Steve Carrell & Paul Rudd...two of the funniest guys around who also both happen to be extremely adept at giving their outrageous or obnoxious characters real emotional depth.    Paul Rudd plays a mid-level analyst in …
Quick Tip by . August 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie has an excellent cast. Carell's movies are usually good and Rudd was excellent in I Love You Man. Though it looks nonsensical in the trailer, I hope to see it soon.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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  • Poster art for "Dinner for Schmucks."
Dinner for Schmucks is a 2010 screwball comedy film, inspired by the Francis Veberfilm Le Dîner de cons(or The Dinner Game), sharing only the same premise as the French film.[4]The film was directed by Jay Roachand written by David Guionand Michael Handelman. It stars Steve Carelland Paul Rudd, who had previously teamed up in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundyand The 40 Year-Old Virgin. It was released theatrically on July 30, 2010.
Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is a mid-level financial executive, who acquires a negotiation over special novelty lamps with wealthy Swiss businessman Martin Mueller (David Walliams). Impressed by Tim's ingenuity, his boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) invites him to a "dinner for winners" in which he must find and bring an eccentric person with a special talent; the winner earns a trophy and the executive that brought him or her gets glory. He soon learns it is more of a "dinner for idiots", and the guests will be mocked mercilessly. Meanwhile, Tim's girlfriend Julie lands a curator deal for eccentric artist Kieran Vollard (Jemaine Clement), and Tim unsuccessfully proposes to her, as he has done several times before. After learning of the cruel nature of the dinner, Julie forces him not to attend.
The next day, Tim accidentally hits IRS employee Barry Speck (Steve Carell) with his car when Barry tries to retrieve a dead mouse in the road. Witnessing Barry's bizarre behavior (he taxidermies mice...
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Director: Jay Roach
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: July 23, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 114 Min
Studio: Paramount Pictures
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