Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Dinner for Schmucks

I spent the first half of Dinner for Schmucks waiting ... waiting for laughs. With Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, I expected more. I expected a lot more. Maybe the joke was on the audience. Maybe I was in a screening of Movies for Schmucks, I felt like I was being played.

To recap, Tim (Paul Rudd) is in line for a promotion. Although his good ideas got him to the door, what will take him through it is his ability to win a game his boss and several higher-ups (played by Bruce Greenwood, Ron Livingstone and Larry Wilmore) have prepared. Each member of the team brings an idiot to dinner, the one who brings the most idiotic idiot wins. In a twist of fate, Tim literally runs into Bruce (Steve Carell) an IRS worker who walked into the middle of the street to save a dead mouse. Tim’s found his idiot! His art gallery manager girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) objects, but Tim is committed to getting his promotion.

I was bored through the first half of this film, at one point, I almost dozed off. There are several sub-plots, one involving a sex-obsessed, self-indulgent artist Kieran (Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Concords) and another involving Tim’s crazy stalker (Lucy Punch). Although the bits with Kieran provided a couple of laughs both subplots had more fizzle than sizzle.

The movie almost came alive at the actual dinner. However, it could have went further and been a lot funnier. When Bruce’s mind-reading boss Therman (Zach Galifianakis) shows up as a dinner guest, we get a glimpse of how silly and absurd this film could have been. It wasn’t silly enough and as bad as this sounds, it wasn’t mean enough. If it’s a dinner for schmucks, there is an implied mockery and meanness that should have given the jokes an edginess that was missing. Director Jay Roach played nice and sentimental and it cost him.

This movie is a remake of a French classic. Many critics say Dinner for Schmucks doesn’t measure up to the original. I haven’t seen the original and I probably never will. I am judging this film exclusively on its own merits and as such, it just didn’t work.

I went into this movie hungry for laughs but I was served a cold, flavorless mess. I'm still hungry.

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