Being that his last two films were Austin Powers in Goldmember and Meet the Fockers (if you don’t count the TV movie Recount) I’d all but given up on Jay Roach as a comedic director. Luckily he was handed a funny script and he had enough sense to get on board. Getting two modern comic masters like Paul Rudd and Steve Carell to star as the two leads helped a lot too.
Tim (Paul Rudd) is a mid-level financial executive who makes a big breakthrough at the office and gets invited to a very special dinner. One where in he has to find a complete moron to bring as his guest so all the executives can make fun of the morons. The person who brings the biggest moron wins!
Tim is torn on the idea, he thinks it’s messed up, but he really wants to impress his boss. It also doesn’t help that his girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), doesn’t want him to attend. However, in a freak accident (literally) Tim meets Barry (Steve Carell), a socially awkward man whose hobby is making dioramas involving dead and stuffed mice. Barry is perfect for the dinner party so Tim invites him. However Tim’s life is torn asunder by Barry when he shows up the night before and proceeds to nearly ruin his relationship with Julie.
Tim and Barry are put through a series of strange encounters that night including Barry’s boss (Zach Galifianakis), the artist Julie represents (Jemaine Clement) and Tim’s psycho ex-girl friend (Lucy Punch) amongst others. As one might guess, Tim and Barry slowly begin to become friends and Tim becomes even more conflicted about the dinner party.
Then the dinner party happens. I could tell you something about this scene, but it’s so hilarious I don’t want to ruin a second of it. Suffice to say, if you second-guess finishing the film at any point while watching, please do yourself a favor and stick it out to the end, it’s totally worth it!
Of all the films I’ve reviewed over the years, this film was a first for me. It was a first in that I needed to watch it two times before I could write about it. The first time I watched it I laughed a lot, but there were some moments, uncomfortable Office/Meet the Parents type moments that had me tucking my knees up to my chin and hide from the painful awkwardness of the scene. Now I like me some good awkward humor, but the brunch sequence just put me over the edge. I almost turned the film off even. But I powered through and made it to the end, which almost had me in tears.
So I thought about the film for a day. My initial gut reaction was to say I didn’t like it, because the awkward moments weren’t funny. But I remembered laughing a whole lot too, so I had to give it a second chance before spewing my opinions on the internet.
After watching it a second time I was glad I did. Those awkward moments weren’t quite so painful anymore, and I was able to see the humor in them. Suddenly this was just a straight up hilarious film with no painful parts at all.
What really makes this film work is not only the great comedic actors, but the characters they play. Barry is, for the most part, very annoying. However, he is given several introspective moments that you don’t usually see in these kinds of comedies that tell you exactly where his character has come from and why he is the way he is. The audience begins to understand Barry just as Tim begins to understand him and there in lays the key making this film work.
The other two elements that will have you in tears with this film are Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement. While they both only play supporting roles, they steal every scene they are in. Clement throws himself into the role of the pretentious artist. Check out his short films on funnyordie.com. Jemaine may have made a name for himself with Flight of the Conchords, but if he keeps on nailing these small roles he’s been landing he’s got a great career ahead of him. Zach is also in top form as Barry’s boss. He claims to have mind control and well… again… if I say too much more I’ll ruin some truly hilarious moments.
I don’t think everyone will see Dinner for Schmucks the way I do. And I doubt those who are unsure the first time through will take the time to watch it again. But if you’re willing to give this film a chance, this could be one of the funniest films you’ve seen in a long time.
Or you might just end up hating it, that’s just the kind of film it is.
This film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. English, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles are available. This is a fine looking film thought nothing here really lends itself to Blu-Ray. You could just as easily pick this up on DVD and enjoy it just as much.
The Biggest Schmucks In The World: (15 min.) Interviews with the cast about the film, there are some really entertaining moments here.
Deleted Scenes: (9 min.) These are amusing little tidbits but with near a two hour running time on the film, it’s no wonder these bits were cut out.
The Men Behind The Mouseterpieces (11 min.) The guys that designed all the dioramas are the same ones that directed Killer Klowns From Outer Space! I was very excited to learn this. Also, it’s really interesting to see how much work went into making these.
Schmuck Ups: The Outtakes Reel: (8 min.) Pretty standard gag reel, but there are some gems in here.
Meet The Winners: (4 min.) These are fake interviews with the other “schmucks” that were invited to the dinner. This is pretty funny.
Paul & Steve: The Decision: (4 min.) Rudd and Carell mock the LeBron James ESPN special where he announced he was leaving his team to play for another. This is really funny!
While I’m sure I’ve rambled enough in my review, it’s also worth noting that this film is a remake of the French film, Le Diner de cons. I haven’t seen that one so I can’t make any comparisons. All I can really do here is reiterate that it is worth watching a second time if you didn’t get it the first time.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Dinner for Schmucks. Directed by: Jay Roach. Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman. Based on the script by Francis Veber. Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch and Ron Livingston. Running time: 114. Rating: PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: January 4, 2011.
Tags: Dinner for Schmucks, Jay Roach, Jemaine Clement, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifinakis