Regardless of its quality (or lack thereof), people are likely to check out Dinner For Schmucks based on its menu of comic talent. Pop-com director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers series) offers up funnymen and frequent co-stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (The 40 Year-old Virgin, Anchorman) as the film’s main comic courses, along with The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis and Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement as potentially humorous side-dishes. Like a food critic – or, more fittingly, like one of those minions who tests the king’s entrée to make sure it isn’t poisoned – let me warn you: despite its ingredients, this Dinner is cold, tasteless and oddly unfunny. More after the jump:
Film’s seemingly simple premise revolves around a financial analyst (Rudd) who, in order to curry favor with his boss, agrees to attend a secret monthly dinner game in which the employee who brings the biggest buffoon as his or her guest wins. When Rudd meets Carell’s bowl-cut coiffed, windbreaker-wearing, dead mouse-loving “Barry,” he thinks he’s found his meal ticket. Unfortunately, the movie then makes us wait over an hour before delivering on the promise of this premise. (Apparently in the 1998 French original, Le dîner de cons, they never even make it to the dinner, so perhaps this is an improvement.)
During the interim, the film gives Carell’s misfit character every opportunity in the dog-eared book to screw up Rudd’s life in a film that often echoes the far funnier What About Bob? It also serves up a series of potentially amusing appetizers in the form of Jemaine Clement as a hypersexual Euro-trash painter, Zach Galifianakis as a telepathic IRS auditor and Lucy Punch as the most over the top psycho-ex since Claudia Christian in Hexed (That’s right, I just referenced Arye Gross’s 1993 comic gem). None of these oddballs is particularly tasty, yet at least they’re more developed than the one-note “schmucks” introduced at the dinner.
This whole cast (and director) have fared better with looser, more improvisational material. Perhaps farce, with its somewhat rigid conventions, is a dish best served French. Or perhaps it’s simply more fun to laugh with people than at them, a discomfiting behavior this film seems to encourage.
Picture and sound are fine. Los Angeles certainly pops on screen, notably the famed art deco Sunset Tower and the big shiny new C.A.A. headquarters (um, did the filmmakers just shoot at all their super-inside Hollywood hangouts?). The high definition picture also shows off the beautiful work done by the Chiodo brothers, creators of Larry’s intricate mice dioramas. Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
Bonus materials include “The Biggest Schmucks in the World,” a general making-of; “The Men Behind the Mouseterpieces,” giving due attention to the aforementioned Chiodo brothers; “Meet the Winners,” spotlighting the film’s in-character “schmucks”; “Schmucks Up,” a gag reel that suggests making the movie was more fun than watching it; six Deleted/Extended scenes, “Paul and Steve: The Decision,” a mildly amusing sketch Rudd and Carell did for the 2010 ESPYs and, finally, the theatrical trailer.
Skip Dinner and head straight for a dessert of The 40 Year Old Virgin or The Hangover or Flight of the Conchords…basically any movie/TV show showing off this film’s comic talent to more delicious advantage.
Dinner For Schmucks is rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language. It has a run time of approximately 114 minutes.