Review: DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
In one of the more unnerving comedies of the summer, DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS tries to lure the viewer in with The Beatles “Fool on the Hill” playing over the opening credits with scenes of stuffed, dead mice frolicking about. The viewer may find this one-note ploy of rodents in tiny miniature costumes in historical boxed settings throughout the movie a tad unnerving. Being that the film is a comedy, dead mice are funny how? Ironically these dioramas become way more interesting than the film’s characters.
Adapted from the 1998 remake of the French film THE DINNER GAME (Le diner de cons) from director Francis Veber, Jay Roach’s (MEET THE PARENTS, AUSTIN POWERS) American version totally detracts from the smart original. There’s nothing genius or clever about Steve Carell’s role as Barry Speck, a plain simpleton & IRS employee/taxidermist hit by the Porsche driven basically by a guy who’s a jerk, Tim (Paul Rudd). Barry wanders cluelessly through life and is oblivious to the slings and arrows of various insults aimed his way by Tim, who’s trying to make points with the boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) and be promoted at the Fender Financial Firm by wining and dining Swiss billionaire Müeller (David Walliams of “Little Britain”). Fender lets it be known that in order to succeed in his firm, each person has to invite an idiot to a weekend dinner to humiliate them. Not entirely opposed to the idea, Tim invites Barry and within 24 hours of their meeting, Tim’s life is destroyed by this dangerous and crazed person.
While putting up with Barry’s antics, Tim also has to deal with girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak) who runs an upscaled art gallery and her client, an extremely harry and nutty, Kieran Vollard (Jermaine Clement – Flight of the Conchords on HBO) who just loves communing with nature, Darla the looney stalker (Lucy Punch), and an audit from the IRS stemming from a feud between Barry and co-worker Therman (Zach Galifianakis). Julie lets it be known that she’s not too keen on the prospects Tim’s dinner for idiots meeting, so is it any wonder that Tim, surprise, develops a conscience later on.
If given the right material, Rudd and Carell, who’ve been in 2 other films together (ANCHORMAN, 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN), could do this standing on their heads while sleeping. There are far too many awkward moments in SCHMUCKS that will leave you feeling jittery as if you’ve drunk 10 cups of coffee. Both actors are so likeable too, but Carell is wandering precariously close to that hit-or-miss Jim Carrey, and even Robin Williams, territory. Keep an eye out for Sacha Baron Cohen’s credit as Executive Producer and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham (“The Jeff Dunham Show”). A sidenote about the opening credits & song. Paramount/Dreamworks paid $1.5 million to buy out the rights to the Beatles’s “Fool on a Hill” in perpetuity.
The film ultimately comes down to being a 5 minute Saturday Night Live skit that turns into 2 aggravating hours of characters who wear out their welcome long before that halfway mark. Dashed with some crude laughs, DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS is nothing more than an annoying attempt at humor at the expense of others. There’s nothing funny or, try as it may, sweet about Roach’s bland comedy. It winds up being served cold leaving a bitter taste on the audience’s palate.