Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Bruce greenwood, David Walliams, Stephanie Szostak
Director: Jay Roach
Writer(s): David Guion, Michael Handelman
Cinematography: Jim Denault
Original Score: Theodore Shapiro
Running Time: 114 Mins.
Taking a highly rated French Comedy/Farce, Le Dinner De Cons, and remaking it for an American sense of humour is nothing new, witness The Birdcage, Three Men and a Baby and Father of the Bride, all films that retain the main crux of their inspiration if not the general Gallic tone which is often a little more quirky and in the case of Le Dinner De Cons maybe a little too dark for a mainstream audience as once again bar the concept little remains to tie one film to the other. This could be perceived as both a plus or a negative depending on your view of the original, however my feeling is that so few people will know the origin of the story that this fact will matter little meaning that Dinner For Schmucks really deserves to be taken on it’s own merits…and let’s face it, how many films are truly original!
The first thing you need to know (and almost definitely will know if you’ve seen the poster) is that this is a Steve Carell/Paul Rudd film, directed by Jay Roach (he behind Austin Powers and Meet The Parents), great comedy credentials from the off, in that respect it is fair to say expectations are high and despite Carell’s recent slump (Date Night, Get Smart) it is alway a joy to see Brick Tamland and Brian Fantana reunited. These are two actors that have instant comedic chemistry, much like any of the frat pack do, and a film that stars two or more of the said comedy troupe can generally wring hilarity from the weakest material. But weak material this is not, often it has a tendency to turn to slap-stick for laughs but these fleeting moments are always met with a great punch-line or some witty banter that makes the more physical humour all the funnier, see Carell’s attempts at playing dead for a perfect example of this!
The setup is one that has literally endless comedic potential, on a very broad spectrum, satire, farce, slapstick, but mostly stupidity and wringing fun from it in the best possible way. Tim seeks promotion in work as a high-flying ad man but to make it to the seventh floor and seal his place in management he must attend and impress at a dinner held by his boss, the titular dinner, told that each guest must bring a partner with extraordinary skill (read: idiotic) so that these men can make fun at their expense, as Tim frets about who to take and whether to go at all, a remarkable person, Barry (Carell), seemingly falls onto his lap (well actually he hits him with his Porsche)…and so ensues a frantic day leading up to the dinner that takes in attempts at reconciling Tim with his fiance, sealing a big business deal and discovering there is more to Barry (clichéd but inevitable) than Tim originally imagined.
Sounds like a potentially trite tale of self discovery, and in some senses it is, Barry has his own issues and Tim discovers that really he has the capacity to be a bit of an arse (to put it mildly) but the plotting and pacing are so well handled that it is a breeze and any heart-felt moments flow with the film rather than jar as something funny always ensues. It must be said that Carell makes this film with a step away from the everyman type’s he has been playing lately and going back to his Brick Tamland dumb roots, something he does all too well, Barry is a hugely likeable yet inevitable funny guy and that is thanks in part to the script but largely because of how talented Carell is. But he isn’t the only one keep the laugh quota exceptionally high, Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and David Walliams (Little Britain) each have their time to shine delivering self-loving monologues or in Walliams case putting on a funny Swedish accent and looking perma-tanned. If it doesn’t sound like the most cerebral comedy, that’s because it isn’t but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make you laugh.
The highpoint comes at a dinner, if not THE dinner, as Tim and Barry meet with Walliam’s Swedish client, and Barry decides to “help” by bringing Tim’s stalker, a very funny setup that unfortunately tops the final dinner (which was oddly omitted from the French version) stacked to the rafters with eccentrics (inevitable) there are laughs to be found but Zach Galifianakis is not as funny as he needs to be when up against Carell meaning that in the end laughs are lost in favour of a woman impersonating a dead lobster, if that all sounds a little bit odd, a little bit stupid and most importantly a little bit funny I can’t recommend this to you enough, all that and I haven’t even mentioned the mice…!
Dinner For Schmucks reunties Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, if that is a tasty comedic thought to you consider yourself treated for this is every bit as funny as you could wish.