Filed under: Reviews
Since the name The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was taken, director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) titled this summer's hilarious comedy Dinner for Schmucks. It was inspired by a French film from the 90s called The Dinner Game. The film sets up like this: once a month, a company dinner is held where someone's 'plus one' is the dumbest person they can find, and they laugh at their expense. The one rule is the schmucks have to be told the dinner is for extraordinary people, not idiots. Sounds like a pretty hateful,depressing plot for a movie, eh? Actually, it's quite the opposite. The film turns out to have enough heart, you don't even think about the plot in that way.
Starring is Steve Carell (The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) playing one of the movie's schmucks, and Paul Rudd (I Love You Man, Knocked Up) is once again playing the straight man. These two reunite for the first time since The 40-Year-Old Virgin and their chemistry has only gotten better. Rudd plays Tim, an up-and-coming equity executive on the 6th floor, with hopes to be a 7th floor executive. Tim pretty much earns his promotion to the 7th floor, but has one thing left to do to impress his boss: go to the company's next monthly dinner with the best schmuck he can find in hopes they are the evening's winner of idiots. Tim, completely against the whole idea at first, tries to get out of going to the dinner until he literally runs into his future dinner companion, Barry (Carell). Barry is a peculiar IRS employee with a very unusual hobby of mice taxidermy. I'll get back to that in a minute. Barry is not the typical tax man because he is a nice guy (sorry tax men/tax women) and immediately befriends Tim, practically begging to go his dinner.
From there on, it's a hurricane of destruction that is Barry following Tim around the day before the dinner. During Tim's time with Barry leading up to the dinner (which doesn't happen until the last half hour of the film, by the way), everything that could go wrong, does. Roach tones down the slapstick-style comedy compared to Meet the Parents, and just lets Carell loose to do what he does best: improv. I counted at least three times in the film where Rudd was trying to keep a straight face while Carell was just saying random things. Watch for this one when it comes to DVD, because there will probably be about an hour of just outtakes.
As funny as both of these stars are, the film is nearly stolen by all the smaller characters introduced before the dinner as well as at the dinner. These smaller roles are cast by some other great comedic talents, such as Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement, Office Space's Ron Livingston, and The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis. I don't want to say too much about what kind of roles these guys have in the film because I wouldn't be able to do them justice. All you need to know is you are only going to see more and more of Galifianakis over the next couple of years, because everyone wants him in their movie. Finally, at the dinner, the funny amp gets turned up to 11 and everybody is hilarious, making you wish your dinners were always like this.
This movie will make you laugh out load at least a couple dozen times before the actual dinner even takes place. The writing in this movie may not have one-liners that people will still be quoting weeks from now, but it is almost Seinfeld-ish in the way everything comes back around in the end. Some of the best parts of the movie are Barry's mice taxidermy hobby being displayed at the opening and end credits. This may be a bold statement, but the props/set design could be up for a major award because of the attention to detail that was put into those mice figures. They, interestingly, are what give the film most of its heart, as well as getting some of the biggest laughs in the theatre.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.