Movie Review: Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in Dinner for Schmucks
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Dinner for Schmucks has a couple of amusing minutes, but for the most part it is a wretched slog of unfunny moments edited together making any seasoned moviegoer wonder just what convinced Steve Carell and Paul Rudd to become a part of this mess. Admittedly, I did experience laughter. One specific example came late in the film’s 110-minute running time when I leaned over to a friend sitting next to me and whispered, “I’m actually laughing right now.” About a minute later the same joke was still carrying on and I whispered once again, “I’m not laughing anymore.”

Dinner for Schmucks is a remake of the 1998 French film Le Diner de Cons, of which I haven’t seen, but based on the descriptions I’ve read it sounds almost exactly the same. However, there is one glaring difference… it’s 30 minutes shorter. Of course tight screenwriting takes time, effort and talent but none of that is of concern here as writing duo David Guion and Michael Handelman (The Ex) primarily rely on the third-party listening in technique to create confusion and misunderstandings in an effort to keep the story alive. Perhaps someone that doesn’t see movies or television shows too often will appreciate their hackneyed attempts at comedy, but even if you accept the process I don’t know how you can find most of what’s on screen actually funny.

Rudd stars as Tim, a financial analyst with his eye on a big promotion. Once he’s called into the boss’s office after a knock out presentation that promotion is within his reach as he’s invited to an exclusive dinner party at which the guests are required to invite the biggest idiot they can find. As luck would have it Tim runs over Barry (Carell) with his Porsche as Barry is rescuing a dead mouse to add to his collection. Tim sees it as a “sign from God” and invites Barry as his guest. The rest pretty much writes itself.

Barry’s weird because he dresses up dead mice to replicate famous works of art. Tim falls down and hurts his back, which sustains a series of “jokes” for about 10-15 minutes. Barry works for the IRS and through a series of mishaps manages to get Tim scheduled for an audit. It goes on and on like this and despite every stupid thing Barry does, Tim continues to give weight to his suggestions. It’s a movie that feeds off its own stupidity. If there was to be a moment of actual intelligence it would die.

Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords” fame is perhaps the funniest thing about the film playing Kieran, an eccentric artist who places life in two categories — “sexy sex” and death. “Now I’m going to go off and have sex with these girls before I die,” he says, prompting a moment of laughter from me. And Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover) tries his hardest to eek out a laugh, but for the most part his scenes play like those “Saturday Night Live” skits you stare at and think to yourself, Someone thought this was funny?

Director Jay Roach managed to do much better than this with the three films in the semi-decent Austin Powers franchise, but I am no fan of his Meet the Parents and actually disliked it so much I refused to watch its sequel. However, Meet the Parents looks like Shakespeare next to this mess. When you’re walking out of the theater discussing where a film ranks amongst the worst of the year it is never a good sign. While Dinner for Schmucks isn’t quite that bad, it is part of the conversation.