Rating: 2 out of 5
Based on a rapturously perverse comedy called Le Dîner de Cons (The Dinner Game) by Francis Veber, this Hollywood remake bears little resemblance to its Gallic counterpart other than a shared premise. Where Le Dîner de Cons was witty and biting, Dinner for Schmucks is cringe-worthy and toothless.
Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is an enterprising analyst at a private equity firm who’s looking to climb up the corporate ladder. Thus Tim is thrilled when his boss invites him over to his mansion for a formal dinner with business colleagues, a sure sign that he’s in line for a promotion.
His excitement however turns to moral discomfort upon learning the nature of this snooty shindig. Each guest must bring along an unwitting idiot to be secretly made fun of. The one with the biggest fool wins a prize and the good graces of the boss.
Despite his ambitions, Tim’s conscience and objections from girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) make him reluctant to participate – that is until he accidentally runs into lonely simpleton Barry Speck (Steve Carell).
Barry is a tax auditor by day and a rodent taxidermist by night. Yes, he collects and stuffs dead mice...before decorating them with tiny handcrafted clothes and posing them in cute little dioramas. Tim thinks he’s hit the jackpot with this odd ignoramus – a man so profoundly stupid that you’d call the police immediately because a village was obviously robbed of its idiot.
Spectacular stupidity comes with a spectacular price though because Barry begins to ruin every aspect of Tim’s life, from his career to his relationship with Julie, through a series of farcical misunderstandings.
Two things have to work perfectly for a movie like this. Firstly, Tim has to be likeable enough so that his usage of Barry isn’t despicable. Done, Rudd can play likeable in his sleep. Secondly, Barry has to be more than a clownish idiot; we have to empathise with him so that we can overlook the utter destruction he brings into Tim’s life and connect with him emotionally.
Director Jay Roach would very much like to position Barry as the loveable, kind-hearted buffoon who means well and if you’ve seen The Office, Carrell should be well adept at playing that. Unfortunately Barry comes across as an irritant and nothing more, even after learning of his weepy back-story. Carrell gamely tries his best but the material he’s given is so broad and obnoxious that it’s hard to redeem much out of it.
The whole film is structured around tediously put-upon set-pieces that are only intermittently chuckle-worthy at best. Running at a bloated 114 minutes, Dinner for Schmucks is not only painfully unfunny but also laboriously overlong. This vaudevillian and vapid American meal is best left uneaten. Please try the French cuisine instead.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.