MovieMantz Review: ‘Dinner For Schmucks’
First Published: July 30, 2010 7:23 PM EDT Credit: Paramount Pictures
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- “A Recipe for Disaster”
“Dinner for Schmucks” Paul Rudd, Steve Carell Directed by Jay Roach
Judging by just one look at the Hollywood menu, “Dinner for Schmucks” should have hit the spot as a tasty cinematic dish. But if this bland comedy is the best that the filmmakers could come up with, then I’ll pass on dessert.
That’s too bad, because it has all the right comedic ingredients: it co-stars Paul Rudd (“I Love You, Man”), Steve Carell (TV’s “The Office”) and, in a supporting role, Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”); it’s directed by Jay Roach (“Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers,” all three “Austin Powers” movies); and it’s a remake of the outrageous French farce “Le diner de cons” (released in the U.S. in 1998 as “The Dinner Game”).
But even with those elements blended together, “Dinner for Schmucks” feels like a soufflé that never rises. Instead of taking its cues from its far superior source material, “Schmucks” plays out more like the 1991 Bill Murray comedy “What About Bob?” – which would have been great if it was actually funny. Instead, it relies too heavily on slapstick gags that get old fast, and that should leave moviegoers signaling for the check long before “Dinner” is over.
Paul Rudd plays Tim Conrad, an aggressive corporate climber who’s on the fast track to a big salary and an even bigger office. In order to get there, he has to impress his mean-spirited boss (Bruce Greenwood). So when Tim is invited to his house for his monthly dinner game, he’s only too happy to accept. The catch is, each person has to bring an idiot, and the one with the biggest idiot wins.
So where to find a worthy candidate? Enter Barry Speck (Steve Carell), a dim-witted taxman with buckteeth, a bad toupee and a penchant for stuffing mice and fitting them with tiny clothes. He’s the real deal, but he’s also a disaster – in a matter of hours, Barry destroys Tim’s apartment, ruins his relationship with his girlfriend and trashes his car. Can Tim survive long enough to make it to dinner? It kind of makes you wonder who the real schmuck is here.
Beyond its premise, “Dinner for Schmucks” has far too little in common with “Le diner de cons.” It takes too long to get to the actual dinner and is instead bogged down with boring subplots. One of them involves Tim’s Internet stalker, while the other involves Barry’s crazy co-worker (Zach Galifianakis) – and sadly, neither is particularly funny. By contrast, most of “Le diner de cons” took place at the party, which is where all the outrageous antics ensued.
The best that “Dinner for Schmucks” can do is to muster up a few chuckles rather than gut-busting laughs, but they’re stretched out over the course of an overlong 114-minute running time. (It doesn’t help that, basically, everyone’s a schmuck here, so there’s really no one to root for.) As a result, watching it is like eating Chinese food: there’s a wide selection, but an hour after seeing it, you’re hungry again – only this time, for a comedy that’s actually funny.
Verdict: SKIP IT!
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