Dinner For Schmucks, directed by Jay Roach of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery fame is set to be the comedy hit of the summer. Unfortunately, this proves just how easy and dumbed down American comedy has gotten as of late. While this film does have its winning moments, it in no way lives up to the clever laughs provided by the French original The Dinner Game.
Paul Rudd, who usually shines, is dull and lackluster in his role as Tim, a businessman who must bring the biggest idiot he can find to a dinner party. His girlfriend, Julie, played by the lovely Stephanie Szostak, rallies against the idea, but Tim goes against her wishes in the hopes of gaining a promotion at work. The joke is on him though, because his schmuck, Barry (Steve Carrell), wreaks unintentional havoc on his life and on his relationship.
Barry provides virtually all of the laughs that are to be had here, and he is, despite his faults, the most likeable character. Played to perfection by a bumbling, nerdy Carrell, Barry’s antics and heartwarming back story make the film watchable, despite the many groan-worthy moments that surface as it progresses. Watching the unlikely pair form something resembling a friendship is also enjoyable, though there is no one emotional moment that steals the viewer’s heart completely.
The actual dinner scene, which comes near the end of the movie, is the worst. It is so utterly ridiculous and implausible that even the most easily-pleased of viewers will be annoyed. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that the scene includes an escaped bird, a chopped off finger, and a lot of other silliness that falls flat.
Minor roles in the film are filled by Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch, Ron Livingston, and Kristen Schaal. Galifanakis plays Therman, Barry’s arch rival and while he is usually enjoyable, his role here is nothing but irritating. Punch’s role as Darla, Tim’s crazed one-night stand from years ago, is funny but incredibly over the top, and Livingston’s great comedic skills are not put to much use here. Schaal’s role as Tim’s assistant is easily one of the most subtle and hilarious comedic performances in the entire film.
Dinner for Schmucks is far from perfection, but then again it is a remake and, like most remakes, it just can’t quite live up to its predecessor. Die-hard fans of the original will be sorely disappointed, as will anyone looking for a smart comedy. Viewers should prepare to turn off their brains and settle in for a hopelessly flawed but somewhat enjoyable comedic evening.
For your enjoyment take a look at the French original with English subtitles below: