Dinner for Schmucks (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Danny INDIFFERENTThere is a problem when it comes to loving movies, and that is that when you love movies, you see a lot of them. And once you've seen a lot, you realize some just aren't that good, others aren't that bad, and sometimes you can't seem to enjoy one movie because you liked another.

That's pretty much what happens to film snobs when we get around to catching remakes of foreign films. Sometimes (sometimes) they turn out as good or better than the original, other times it's just stupefying.

The subject of today's remake, Dinner for Schmucks, falls somewhere towards the middle. I will readily admit to having seen and greatly enjoyed the original French film, The Dinner Game (Le dîner de cons), which, right off the bat, used a title that at least obscured its intentions a tad. But subtlety, wit, grace... Dinner for Schmucks knows not these things.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't know how to be funny. Steve Carell, star of a number of other lame comedies over the last few years, plays this one to the nines as the unfortunate Barry. His hobbies include taxidermy and using his taxidermy skills to make small little mice reenact scenes from history and his own life.

The movie, in a strange way, makes this oddly adorable; since we're seeing a PG-13 comedy here and not an R rated jaunt into the world of a psychopath they must. But the sanitized work we get here completely robs the weirdness from the situation.

Okay, wait, I've got better complaints than not seeing enough rat guts.

Schmucks stars Paul Rudd as kind of a sweet guy who wants a promotion, only to find the key to that is in participating in a humiliating feast where he must bring another man to insult and degrade. Rudd is iffy on the prospect, and only firmly against it when he finds his girlfriend is. He's a weasel of a character dressed up in sympathy as he is forced to choose between love and career advancement. That you're watching a film in Hollywood should reveal exactly which route he chooses.

If Rudd's character is too adrift in the loose morality of the role, Carell's is adrift in the loose intelligence of the character. Barry makes Forrest Gump look like a nuclear physicist; the reason his character is this way is never addressed, but mental deficiency can't even be the half of it. A guy like Barry has and will continue to endure years of abuse and ridicule for the way he is, a tragic existence presented here as a rube not because of any flaw but his own sad reality.

The rest of the cast feels precisely attuned to creating the dumbest laughs possible. There's a stalker of Rudd's who is not only unattractive (fortunate or Rudd may have to make a difficult choice) but broadly psychotic, there's Carell's boss who claims to control minds and stole his wife by being able to find her clitoris, and there's the modern artist who is weird and strange because, hey, modern art is weird and strange, amiright?

I'm not going to lie, I did laugh at a regular clip during Dinner for Schmucks, but it never felt satisfying. There's a good idea here that's made inarticulate, it's a sitcom that is terrified of what might happen if they don't lob the punchlines straight at you. It's a comedy so broad it might as well win the lead role in a revival of Annie.

Rent the original. Trust me.

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Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

This film is currently playing in theaters.

Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd

Posted by Danny

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