DVD REVIEW: Dinner for Schmucks

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STUDIO: Dreamworks
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Outtakes

The Pitch

Paul Rudd hits a moron with his car. Then, he invites him to dinner. Hilarity ensues.

The Humans

Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement

The Nutshell

Steve Carell never gets enough credit.

The Lowdown

Dinner for Schmucks is a reimaging of a French film that you’re probably never going to see. To entice American viewers, Jay Roach wisely enlisted the talents of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Rudd does his usual schtick of being a wooden post for other actors to address. Steve Carell gets the comedic role, while he plays against an assortment of supporting actors that have done far better work. Romance is in the air, but the odor is permeated by dick jokes. I’ve been told that dick jokes smell of elderberries and feet. I always imagined them smelling different. These thoughts are why I had to watch the movie twice.

That beard holds the secret to why Mel Gibson got fired from The Hangover 2.

Dinner for Schmucks is based around the concept of a dinner party for morons. The upper levels of a company have decided to hold a contest to see who can mock society’s lowest rung. Paul Rudd wants to advance in his career, so he finds a local idiot and mows him over with his car. When the ‘tard force manages to save the local idiot, Paul Rudd sees the potential in not killing random citizens while driving. The two become awkward friends, as the local idiot talks about his Mouse collection. The idiot mouse artist dubbed Barry uses the old world art of taxidermy to make carefully constructed representations of meaningful events.

Life after paper.

But, we can’t really care about Steve Carell yet. This is a Paul Rudd movie and he’s got a world of issues with his French girlfriend. He wants for her to marry him, but she doesn’t like that his workplace makes him use and abuse the dim-witted. Paul Rudd is pissed about this, but lacks the evil spine to backhand her into a state of submission. So, he takes his frustration out on Barry. This leads to all sorts of scenarios involving dirty instant messaging, wine bottle fights, birdman erotica and the titular party. That’s when Barry flips the script and we learn his dark secrets from Beardman. The usual claptrap branches out of there and men are forged by their conflict with great adversity.

What does it all mean? Well, Paul Rudd still can’t act to save his life. If the guy isn’t support by Adam McKay or the suckling teat of Judd Apatow…he falls on his face hard. Steve Carell manages to blend warmth into his comedy in a way that doesn’t induce cringing. Still, the real joy in the film is the supporting cast that consists of Lucy Punch, Jemaine Clement, David Walliams, Larry Wilmore and Bruce Greenwood. They get their moments, but the lot of them is pushed into the background to keep giving Carell and Rudd more time to win Middle America’s heart. Everyone gets to coo, while it takes a second viewing to pick up on some of the more pathetic imagery in the film.

Love that bitty.

When we find out that Barry’s wife was cheating on him with Therman, the film takes a brief detour into real emotion. Watching as the mentally stunted Barry indirectly explains away his wife’s infidelity and how it connects back to his art is pretty amazing. But, between the dead mouse art of the infidelity and his revelation about his part in it…we start to approach truly creepy material. It’s a scene that might’ve played different on paper, but Carell’s reading of the moment turns it into awkward brilliance. There’s nothing more pathetic than seeing a tiny mouse underneath bed while the other mice fuck upon yon hiding place.

This is squandered when Barry and Beardman have their final showdown at the party, but it’s not like most people will be invested enough to care. That is the downfall of most modern comedies. You build trailers, promotions and film structure among selling the big jokes while forgetting the nuances. This has created a generation of comedians and audiences who don’t understand the power of the unstated. It’s a slippery slope that comedians can fight against, but it’s hard to change audience expectations. I applaud Steve Carell for attempting to create depth in a goofy character, but I’m not sure that most viewers will appreciate it.

Change that carton of Soy Milk to a bottle of Robotussin and you’ve got an intimate look at my review process.

The movie is saved by Carell’s ability to believe in the eccentricity of his character. Anyone can play a weirdo onscreen, but it takes a true talent to find the joy in being strange. That’s about the only thing I took away from my experience with this film. I know that it’s a fool’s quest to expect some sort of enlightenment from every piece of shit I throw into the DVD player. It’s just that as time passes, I want to feel like I’m spending my time watching something worthwhile.

Dinner for Schmucks isn’t worth your time, but it’s far from a terrible flick. Occupying that same sort of territory that used to populate HBO’s afternoon line-up isn’t an easy thing. Just ask Million Dollar Mystery. It’s just that so much of this material consists of misses and very few hits. While it will be pushed to the dustbins of film history, viewers can appreciate the film for what it is…a waste of time. I’ll have to move onto other things, as I’m spending my time looking for less filler and more winners.

Mice voyeurs.

The Package

The DVD comes with a ton of deleted scenes, featurettes and outtakes. There’s the ESPN Decision bit that the key players did around the James’ departure from Cleveland. It was funny when it happened last summer, but now it just exists. The deleted scenes and outtakes offer up a few chuckles, but it’s nothing super important to the rest of the film. The A/V Quality boasts little digital noise and a strong Dolby 5.1 track. However, I wish that dialogue didn’t get stepped towards the end of the flick. It’s like Robert Altman returned from the grave to screw with discernible audio levels.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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