The summer of 2010 has been plagued with sequels and remakes, some of them good, some of them awful. There’s not that much originality at the multiplex, lately.
Case in point: Dinner for Schmucks is a remake of the Francis Verber film Le Diner de Cons, which is also known as The Dinner Game. Schmucks may not be an original work, but its comedy is quite original, if you can stomach the weirdness.
In Schmucks, Tim (played by Paul Rudd) is trying to work his way up the corporate ladder at a financial firm. All he has to do is bring an idiot to his boss’ monthly idiot dinner. Of course, Tim accepts because he’s gunning to impress his girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), with all the things he can buy and give her with his new promotion money. All Tim needs is a schmuck; which he finds in Barry (Steve Carrell), an IRS analyst who moonlights in mouse taxidermy.
Director Jay Roach worked well with the material he was given by screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman (with original adaptation by Verber). Schmucks is nicely written and executed as the summer’s answer to The Hangover.
It’s got all of the stupid comedy that one could expect from a screwball comedy. However, for me, while I laughed myself silly during the film, I probably won’t watch it again. It’s a comedy that’s only funny the first time around.
Carrell as Barry is quite lost in his character, who is unbelievably naïve for a man who is married. Rudd as the put-upon boyfriend saddled with a dunce who just doesn’t get it is essentially the same character he’s played in all of his recent films. This isn’t necessarily bad, but the word typecast just keeps ringing in my ear.
Likewise, Zach Galifianakis as Therman, Barry’s boss, is a little too perfect for his role. Therman is equal parts creepy and a jerk. Just as weird is Jemaine Clement’s Kieran, an untalented artist who makes lots of money producing crap and screws everything that walks. Because Clement is an offbeat kind of guy, however, this character suits him well.
Szostak is a little on the annoying side as Julie, who is so busy being angry that she can’t see for looking. Just like Jacqueline in Devil Wears Prada, Julie’s typical reactions further the plot, but don’t help. Lucy Punch as Tim’s stalker Darla is scary crazy, but she has so much more fun being a nuisance that she’s actually a likable character. Granted, she’s destructive, but she gets to do those things that women wish we could do to the jerks we date.
Other actors of note are Bruce Greenwood as Tim’s boss Lance Fender, Ron Livingston as Caldwell, and Larry Wilmore as Williams. Incidentally, Wilmore is also a writer and producer of hit shows like "Law & Order" and "The Office."
Is Dinner for Schmucks a good, laugh-out-loud film to watch? Sure. Does the remembrance of the film activate my upchuck reflex because of the taxidermy and other general weirdness? Yes. Should there be more spawns of comedies just like it? No. But, don’t take my word for it; go see it for yourself; with a bottle of Pepto Bismol.