Dinner for Schmucks

Critic's Pick Dinner for Schmucks
Director: Jay Roach
Screenwriter: Jay Roach
Cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Jemaine Clement, Jeff Dunham, Bruce Greenwood, Ron Livingston, Lucy Punch, Stephanie Szostak
Release Date: 2010-08-04
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Film

I’ll be the schmuck (or possibly the schlemiel) and admit I didn’t really know a damn thing about Le dîner de cons, the 1998 French film that’s the basis of Schmucks, and I still haven’t watched it. I’m curious to now, though, to see whether it’s a sillier, slapstickier farce or a darker satire than its Americanized counterpart; it could easily be either, maybe even both, as Schmucks tries to be, but I’m guessing this new film is more like the Wendy’s Chicken Cordon Bleu version of the story.

Struggling but smirking low-level financial executive Tim (Rudd, who’s face is going to stay that way if he doesn’t quit it) seizes on a fresh route for clawing his way to the top with some dumb-ass investment opportunity (something about making vintage bombs into lamps — don’t ask me). This gets the attention of a-hole boss Lance Fender (Greenwood), but Fender seems less interested in Tim’s ideas than the guest Tim can produce for Fender’s monthly dinner party — a sitcommie set up requiring each of Fender’s underlings to procure “an idiot” and trick him or her into thinking they're being honored for exceptional qualities, even while a tableful of suits guffaws in ridicule. Trouble is, Tim’s would-be fiancée Julie (Szostak) — an art-gallery director promoting the work of modern-primitivism caricature Kieran Vollard (Clement) — thinks the idea is repulsive and makes Tim swear to skip the dinner. Because this really needs to go on for a feature-length amount of time, however, Tim runs into (as in, with his car) Barry (Carell) an IRS agent and dead-mouse taxidermist — a too-tempting idiot savant of idiocy and an extremely lonely guy — who immediately latches onto Tim and proceeds to wreck every aspect of his life in the most squirm-inducing ways five screenwriters whose credits include the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Santa Clause 2, and College Road Trip can imagine.

The results are more uncomfortable to watch than Roach’s similar talented-actors-making-money-in-cruise-control, incredibly raunchy for a PG-13-rated movie, awkward-com Meet the Parents but not half as funny. It’s better than Meet the Fockers, but so is watching a cat take a crap in your mother’s ashes, and I wouldn’t pay $10 a head to see that either.


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