Dinner For Schmucks – Movie Review

More like 'Dinner for Kinda Sucks,' amirite?

From the depths of the sea, back to the block Steve Carell returns to the silver screen alongside Generation X-Y-Z heartthrob Paul Rudd in Dinner for Schmucks, the new motion picture from Meet the Parents director Jay Roach. With Roach’s filmography predominantly consisting of the awkward situation nervous-laughter of the Meet The… series and the brash obnoxiousness of the Austin Powers franchise, pairing him with Carell and Rudd (who both thrive on a hybrid awkward-obnoxiousness) seems like it would either be a chocolate-peanut butter harmony or a oil-water styles clash. Instead, it’s an oil-peanut butter concoction that is something delicious and other times inedible and incapable of powering any automobile. Are you confused? Good. So is this movie.

The film follows Tim (Paul Rudd), a long-struggling executive on the “loser floor” of his office whose hard-work and ingenuity has finally put him in a position to land a promotion that would put him shoulder-to-shoulder with his company’s giants. Unfortunately for him, his higher-ups share a bond through the fraternity of a shared game called “Dinner for Idiots” where each employee brings an unsavory eccentric guest who isn’t in on the joke that they’re being laughed at. Despite his fiancee-to-be’s objections, Tim plays along and invites tax-auditing taxidermist Barry (Steve Carell). Barry winds up being the catalyst who almost causes Tim to lose his job and relationship until he makes the parties involved realize truths about themselves.

The cast is one of the best comedic lineups in recent memory. The promise of a supporting cast including Ron Livingston (Office Space), Larry Wilmore (The Daily Show) and Andrea Savage (Stepbrothers) seems like a can’t miss prospect. Add The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s arch-nemesis and show-stealing Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz) as Tim’s psychotic scorned stalker, and you have a team that can score a hearty laugh just by being onscreen. While Rudd proves here he can finally carry a starring role and Carell continues to find heart and humor in places most are scared to look, an over-restrictive script leaves them without much to do.

Who wouldn't want to be buds with the Rudds?

Having Roach directing is really what muddies the film’s identity. The dark premise (lifted from the French film The Dinner Game) seems perfect for a Will Ferrel/Adam McKay parade of the absurd or an Apatow-style series of awkward cringes that tells us something positive about our early-20s. Sadly, Roach’s direction seems to play it too close to an older-audience skewing Mother-Focker crowd, too conservative and conventional for talent involved, causing the handful of blatantly crude moments to seem woefully out of place. It’s not a movie that feels like it’s holding its talent back. It’s a movie that has them tranquilized.

Such tameness makes the more outrageous plot developments seem plodding and completely disconnected me from the movie. A scene where Barry and Tim break into an apartment where they believe Tim’s girlfriend (The Devil Wears Prada‘s Stephanie Szostak) is cheating on him with one of her sexually promiscuous art clients just seemed too utterly stupid, even within the logic of the movie. I’m all for the suspension of disbelief, but not for its complete waterboarding.

It’s a flawed film with the most noticeably sloppy editing to come from a major studio in recent memory. Even if you aren’t the type of person who “notices things like that,” I assure you that you will. The momentum-halting start-stop-start-stop fades almost seem intended to kill interest with techniques so poor you would think the movie was completed in Clarisworks. That aside, the performances in the film are just strong enough to warrant a recommendation. The Carell-Galifianakis chemistry in particular is off-the-charts and should at least nominate the film for a position in your Netflix Instant-Queue. It’s a movie that can’t decide who its audience is, but the glimpses of what could have been will make for some highly re-playable YouTube clips in four months. Despite a strong waitstaff, the disappointing Dinner for Schmucks will best be enjoyed as pieces of tomorrow’s leftovers.

We give Dinner for Schmucks a Three Out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

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2 Comments on “Dinner For Schmucks – Movie Review”

  1. sankofa Says:

    agreed on the identity crisis, garbage flick

  2. bILL Says:

    Agree mostly except for Rudd finally proving he can carry a starring role. He proved that in “Role Models” and “I Love You, Man”. He was the weak link in “Schmucks”. I don’t think he made me laugh once.

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