“Dinner for Schmucks”

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd star, but laughs are mean-spirited

| Aug 9, 2010

A scene from Dinner for Schmucks
Dinner for Schmucks is a comedy that takes a long time getting to the laughs, and once it does, they are mean-spirited laughs and all at the expense of others.

Steve Carell plays Barry, a meek little man whose hobby is constructing elaborate dioramas that use dead mice dressed up as people in them.

Paul Rudd plays Tim, an analyst on the sixth floor of an investment firm who wants the office of a colleague who just got fired.

In other words, Tim wants a promotion to the top floor, and he gets an opportunity when he comes up with an idea to land a new client for their company who has $100 million to invest.

So, Tim’s boss invites Tim to a dinner party he hosts once a month called “Dinner for Winners,” and the next one is this Saturday. Each person brings a guest who has a skill or talent of some kind, everyone makes fun of them, the winner gets a trophy, and they all are released into the world no more the wiser.

Tim has doubts about this cruelty, and his girlfriend, Julie, doesn’t want him to attend, but then Tim meets Barry, who is a tornado of destruction and makes Tim’s personal life much worse.

Barry has an odd way of thinking, and as he tells Tim, “In the words of John Lennon, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.'”

Tim can’t convince Barry that he is leaving off three words at the end, but no matter. Barry doesn’t listen well to others.

You can see the gags coming ahead of time, but you will still laugh, mostly in spite of yourself, and there are two subplots that add to the gags at the dinner party, one involving a woman who has been stalking Tim for three years and the other involving Julie’s relationship with a self-absorbed artist.

The movie wants us to feed sad and sorry for Barry, but we can’t. Also, you might be getting tired of Carell playing an idiot, but he does it so well, doesn’t he?

And as much as you might want to hate this movie for its premise, remember that it is based on a French film, the 1998 The Dinner Game.

Dinner for Schmucks, to its credit however, redeems itself at the end.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”  

culberson-thumbnail-2“Hotshots” is a weekly movie review by Dan Culberson available on KGNU Community Radio (88.5 FM in Boulder and 1390 AM in Denver, on Filmchannel1, and on Boulder Reporter. Culberson has been reviewing films since 1972 for newspapers, magazines, radio and television.