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Idiot Savant Steve Carell plays a loveable doofus in the new farce 'Dinner for Schmucks'


Dinner for Schmucks  is one of those movies that everyone else 'Dinner for Schmucks' is now playing in theaters nationwide. Photo: Dreamworksis hilarious. It’s the kind of movie that sends a packed audience into rousing, hysterical laughter while you look around in bewilderment. It’s also the type of undemanding slapstick comedy that will easily satiate mainstream audience’s funny bone appetites.

That’s not to say that this is a good movie overall. Dinner for Schmucks is based on a French film that is probably far more clever (and crueler), but the star power of Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, along with some weird characters and set pieces, manage to keep this farce standing for a while until it completely collapses.

Tim is in a major rut with his life. Stuck in a low-end finance position at his current job and consistently turned down by his girlfriend each time he proposes, things are looking bleak. One day during a company meeting, Tim gets the balls to stand up and propose his idea of lure a Swiss tycoon into allowing the company to manage his money. The idea sails, and soon Tim is in bed with the big players.

The plot thickens when Tim’s boss invites him to a special dinner, one that the department holds annually. During this dinner, each employee is required to bring a guest, and the most interesting guest will receive an award come the end of the evening. The twist is that the guests are all freaks and idiots, and the more extravagant the weirdo, the better the chance of winning.

Tim shrugs off the idea after his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) literally condemns him for even taking part in such a cruel act, but all that changed when he crashes (literally) into Barry with his car. Barry, a grade-A freak show who turns road kill mice into taxidermy wonders, seems too good to pass up. Clearly thinking he can get ahead in business by showing off Barry at the party, Tim initiates a friendship, only to realize the affair is more trouble than it’s worth.

The rest of the film is essentially one big long, torturous buildup before the big dinner climax. Barry invades Tim’s life and practically wrecks it in less than 24 hours. Some of the sequences are funny, including one riotous scene when Barry unwittingly invites Tim’s slutty, psychotic ex-girlfriend to the apartment. Another sequence, involving a brunch between the two and a prospective client, garners some jaw dropping laughs as well.

Still, Dinner for Schmucks wears out it’s welcome by the time the ridiculous climax rolls around. Part of the problem is that director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) can’t keep a consistent tone, resulting in drastic lulls and highs throughout. In turn, the movie becomes exhausting and tiresome. The climactic dinner would be showstopper certainly has it’s moments, but there ‘s also plenty of forced, ineffective slapstick that tarnishes it.

As mentioned, the cast can’t exactly be faulted. Rudd plays the straight man as effectively as can be, though his chemistry with Carell is a bit off. Speaking of Carell, the comedian is dynamite as usual. He completely elevates would could have been a caricature into a flesh and blood character that an audience can root for. Supporting turns by both Zach Galifianakis  and Jemaine Clement (doing his best Russell Brand) are effective and deliver decent comic turns.

Dinner for Schmucks arrives right at the brink of August, which is commonly a wasteland for summer films. The movie’s strong, funny moments are few and far between, diluted by the stupidity and the overall insulting nature of the film overall. Sure, Dinner for Schmucks is passable, but mainstream audiences should still demand more from their comedies. Even the dumb ones.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

Photos courtesy of Dreamworks