Monday, August 02, 2010
A Banquet of Idiocy
By Liz Hunt
The trailers for Dinner for Schmucks promised how-low-can-you-go antics and I expected to sit through another movie cringing at inane scripting and acting. I've also never been a big fan of Steve Carell until this twisted tale of "who's the real schmuck" unwinds in comic setpieces.
Tim (Paul Rudd), stuck in middle management, hopes for a promotion at his private financial firm run by Lance Fender, beautifully played by Bruce Greenwood. After his big pitch at a staff meeting, Tim is invited to an informal meeting where they invite him to a special dinner.
Tim must find the biggest loser he can and bring him to a formal dinner where all the special "guests" are judged by their hosts and the employer with the best "idiot" winning a trophy.
Dinner for Schmucks is director Jay Roach's remake of Francis Veber's French farce The Dinner Game, but the American version, while flat-out uncomfortable to watch in some scenes, is roaringly funny.
Tim believes he can find an idiot and use it to get his promotion until he runs it by his girlfriend Julie(Stephanie Szostak). She is appalled by the whole idea of the dinner and makes Tim promise he'll have nothing to do with it.
That promise seems easy to keep until he is texting while driving and hits a man.
Tim jumps from the car to find an odd man with bad hair and teeth who seems unscathed by the collision. He's more interested in the condition of a dead mouse he was leaping into the street to collect. After the man, who says his name is Barry, offers to pay Tim for the wreck, things get weird.
Barry collects dead mouse carcases, dresses them and puts then in both sweet romantic and historic dioramas. Barry seems to be a clone of Chance the gardener from Being There.
There are plenty of characters Tim can use before the dinner. Julie is an art curator and her current show is by Kieran an artist who includes sex with all his partners in photographs featuring him in some sexual pose.
Barry, who thinks he has found a friend, won't let Tim have a moment's peace.
The dinner itself is one of the saddest and funniest pieces I've seen in a long time. Each "idiot" is right out-there and hard to explain.
This version of Dinner for Schmucks allows us to realize who the real schmucks are without much trouble and it’s great fun to do so.