Dinner for Schmucks

There is a fine line between stupid and funny. Some of the dumbest movies can be pretty funny. I put Hot Tub Time Machine in that category. Ridiculous premise, but a funny movie.

When I first saw the trailer for Dinner for Schmucks, featuring Steve Carrell (Date Night) and funny man du jour Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), I thought I’d be in for a treat. These guys are funny, and the idea of a dinner where the guests of honor are idiots seemed like an original and humorous concept. The dinner was funny. The problem is that the dinner comprised less than a third of the film. I don’t expect a two hour movie to be completely comprised of a dinner scene, but the rest of the movie fell horribly flat for me. It just wasn’t funny. People differ on the types of humor they enjoy. From slapstick, low-brow humor to self-deprecating subtlety, there are many ways to tickle to a funnybone. It’s too bad that Dinner for Schmucks couldn’t find a way to make me laugh. The movie frustrated me more than anything else.

Dinner for Schmucks is the story of Tim, a middling executive who finally has a chance to impress his boss if he can land a new client and fit in with the other brown-nosers who have managed to climb the corporate ladder faster than he. Part of fitting in involves attending an exclusive dinner at the home of his boss, where each guest is required to bring an “interesting person.” The winner is the person who brings the guest deemed most interesting. And by “most interesting,” I mean “biggest loser.” That’s a pretty mean thing to do, and at first Tim is reluctant to engage in such frat-boy antics. His girlfriend Julie is appalled that he would even consider it. When Tim literally runs into Carrell’s character Barry, all bets are off. Barry would be the perfect guest for the dinner. He looks like a total dweeb, and enjoys the odd hobby of stuffing mice and arranging them in little display exhibits. Sort of like this. Barry is divorced, works for the IRS, and has no friends to speak of. When Tim hits Barry with his car, he finds a way to invite him to the dinner. What follows is about one hour of crap, and very little of it is funny. The main chunk of the movie takes place over about 36 hours. Barry shows up to Tim’s apartment the day after meeting him, claiming that he thought the dinner was for that night. Tim explains that the dinner is the following night, but Barry manages to hang around, wreaking havoc. He’s a bumbling idiot with no social grace or interpersonal skills. While Tim is in another room, Barry responds to an instant message on his computer from a girl named Darla that Tim had a one night stand with a few years ago. Tim has a girlfriend and is not interested in Darla, but Barry invites her over to the apartment. When Tim finds out, he asks Barry to leave. On his way out Barry runs into Julie, who he has never seen before, but for some reason mistakes for Darla (who is en route to Tim’s place). Barry has managed to disrupt Tim’s relationship despite only having known him for about a day and a half. *sigh* I’ll spare you the story of how Barry also ruins Tim’s lunch with the big prospective client. He does all this BEFORE THE DINNER.

Dinner for Schmucks was exasperating and simply not funny, as much as I would have liked for it to have been. I chuckled a few times, but it wasn’t nearly as funny as some of Paul Rudd’s other movies, like I Love You Man or Role Models. Similarly, Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s boss was not enough to salvage the movie. One (arguably) good scene, the actual dinner, was also insufficient. I thought it was a completely disappointing movie that is sure to frustrate and bore. Three funny actors were wasted here. Check the numbers for next week, I’m sure that once word of mouth spreads, the movie will plummet from the top 5. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

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