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Dinner for Schmucks

A 2010 comedy movie directed by Jay Roach.

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Very uneven, but Carrell & Rudd make it HILARIOUS

  • Aug 2, 2010
  • by
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 some firm that specializes in taking over troubled firms and selling off their assets. He concocts a great money-making idea and is tentatively welcomed "upstairs" to where the offices are much nicer and the salaries much bigger. But to be fully embraced in the club of executives, he must attend a dinner hosted by his boss (Bruce Greenwood). At this dinner, each guest is asked to bring along someone "extraordinary"...a person who can be mocked as an idiot. Preferably somebody self-deluded about his abilities or simply incredibly dim-witted.

Rudd is horrified, as is his girlfriend, an art gallery owner who ostensibly has no interest in big business, money, the trappings of a rich lifestyle, etc. But when he accidentally runs his car into Steve Carrell, it is as though fate is handing him the perfect dinner guest. Carrell is an IRS agent who has failed to recover from his wife ditching him for his boss, and who is sublimating all this grief into the creation of large, incredibly detailed miniature "scenes" (think The Last Supper or Benjamin Franklin flying his kite) wherein dead mice in costumes are the people. Carrell has amazing creative and taxidermy skills...but he's also naïve, clueless, clumsy and a clinger. Rudd invites him to the dinner, but when Carrell misunderstands the date and time, the two men end up together for a very long, frantic and disastrous day.

Most of the movie does NOT involve the titular DINNER...which is probably a good thing. When the dinner does begin, I would say it is among the more sloppy moments of the film. The idiots who are introduced and paraded in front of us are wildly unconvincing as real people, not terribly funny and the scene is allowed to devolve into frantic running around, with plates breaking and fires blazing. It's like the climactic scene to a farce...except that farces have to be carefully constructed from the beginning in order for the chaos to actually be a payoff. DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS starts us down that road, but then takes an hour long diversion as Rudd & Carrell have their own adventures.

Carrell & Rudd are so charming and skilled at playing off each other that the vast majority of the film is simply hilarious. It should NOT work as well as it does...the scenes are often contrived and no one behaves terribly logically, even within the confines of the film. But the fact is, I laughed my rear-end off...and that's almost good enough for me. Carrell gives his idiot a real heart and real pain...he is simultaneously touching and aggravating. No one can do this as well as Carrell at the moment. Rudd is his handsome, cynical self. His character teeters between giving in to his greedy, "corporate" side and feeling bad that he's even thinking of improving his lot in life by tearing down others. No one is better than Rudd at walking this line, so we are able to both root for him and feel disappointed in him at the same time. Carrell & Rudd have worked together before...and their ease together shows. What I like about both these actors is that they both are comfortable sharing the laughs and limelight with others. I don't want to stretch this too far, but have you ever noticed that particular smile of delight that hits Carrell's face when someone else does something funny? They come in little bursts where we see a big smile and see his eyes twinkle with surprise and admiration. This allows the viewer to see the human underneath the outlandish character. Both Carrell and Rudd believe in NOT pushing the comedy...because none of the things happening are supposed to be funny to the character...just the audience.

Zach Galifinakis turns up in a strange role as Carrell's boss. He's only in a few scenes, but he steals them. Rudd & Carrell LET him steal the scenes...but there is one moment when Galifinakis is laughing at some notion Rudd has articulated, and his clenched laughter and his ever reddening face were absolutely priceless. The whole audience completely lost it during that 30 second masterpiece.

I was very pleased to see FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS member Jemaine Clement playing a truly obnoxious artist. His role is gloriously over-the-top, and thus many will not like it, but I actually found him more grounded than this clichéd part is usually played. Normally the typical artist is portrayed as simply strutting around, preening and caring only about himself. Clement does that, but we also see that he genuinely is able to connect with others, even if it IS in an odd way. And he gets to wear the BEST minotaur costume ever!

The women in the film are given extremely short shrift. Rudd's girlfriend is as bland as bland can be...and we're also asked to believe that she hates the trappings of corporate America, yet his perfectly okay with living in the most amazing apartment building in a deeply expensive apartment. This makes her shallow, and thus her protestations to Rudd feel hollow. Other women are just emasculating weirdoes.

Finally, the film wants to have things two ways. On one hand, it wants to be something of a dark comedy, because the idea of a dinner for idiots is uncomfortable and squirm-inducing. But it also wants to be a sweeter, off-kilter bromance. The two do NOT combine very smoothly...and thus the tone of the film bounces around more than I would like.

So the film has its ups and downs. But my enjoyment of the two leads and my laughter levels make this a strong recommendation from me. No Oscar awards await this film...but it was the funniest film I've seen in several months, if not all year.

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January 10, 2011
Yeah, the Carrell-Rudd interplay was pretty hilarious. Nice review!
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 …
review by . August 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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 …
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

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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … 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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