MOVIE: Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

First things first, I have a bone to pick with all the critics out there who have been slamming on this movie for being titled Dinner for Schmucks instead of Dinner for Idiots:

Look, dweebos, just because they use the word “idiot” in the film instead of the word “schmuck”  doesn’t mean Dinner for Idiots would’ve been a better title (though, Dinner for Dweebos has a nice alliterative ring to it, don’t you think?).  I mean, I don’t remember a single character using the phrase “gone with the wind” in Gone with the Wind, and I don’t remember ya’ll bitchin’ about that.  You would’ve preferred Frankly, My Dear? Or I’ll Never Go Hungry Again?  Let it go, people.  There are plenty of other things to complain about in regards to this movie (which is fun overall, but flawed — keep reading).  Focus on those.  The title’s fine.  IT IS FINE.

Second things second, is it just me, or is Bruce Greenwood the most insanely handsome man on the entire planet?  Good lord.  It’s almost hard to look at him, he’s THAT ridiculously gorgeous.  I have never seen the likes.  Humina humina humina.

Okay, title quibble, check!  Bruce Greenwood butt-kissing, check (p.s. call me!)!  Ready to talk about the movie itself in three, two.  . .

Dinner for Schmucks is about a young up-and-comer in the business world, Tim (Paul Rudd), who has been offered a huge promotion at work.  At first he’s excited, but his enthusiasm is tempered when it becomes clear the only way he’ll snag the upgrade is if he’s willing to play along with his boss’s bizarre dinner game, a game in which all the guests bring along the dumbest schmuck/idiot/dweebo they can find.  The person who finds the biggest dork wins the prize of praise from the boss, which is exactly what Tim needs to land the job.

The problem is, Tim and his girlfriend Julie find the entire premise of the dinner morally repulsive.  You invite losers to dinner just so you can make fun of them?  Ugh.  Any decent person would balk at that immediately, right?

And balk Tim does.  At first.  But it almost feels like fate when, driving home later that day, he accidentally hits a guy in the street who turns out to be the perfect schmuck for the job.  He’s Barry (Steve Carell), a taxidermist who specializes in making (adorable!) little scenes using dead mice.  Barry likes Tim immediately, and when Tim suddenly takes the leap and invites him to the boss’s dinner, Barry is so thrilled he shows up a day early.

Things go wrong, Tim hurts his back, Julie walks out on him, Tim’s long-lost stalker Darla shows up, and, worst of all, BARRY WON’T LEAVE.

Barry, feeling bad about his role in Julie’s walk-out, struggles to help Tim win her back, screwing up just about everything else he comes into contact with.  But he does it in such a sweet, authentically oblivious way that Tim can’t help but grow kind of fond of him.  Frustrated, sure.  But also fond.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, but apparently 900,000 of them come pretty close.

By the time the dinner party finally arrives, Tim’s had another change of heart; what happens after that, I’ll leave for you to discover on your own.

It’s a sweet movie at its core, and I still greatly enjoy Carell’s “adorable doofus” character, despite the fact it’s the only character he ever seems to play anymore.  I’m sure I’ll get tired of it some day, but that day is not today.  No sir.   Additionally, I liked both Zach Galifianakis, who doesn’t even need to open his mouth to make me lose it anymore (oh, that turtleneck thing! I. Was. Dying.), and also Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords), who plays a ridiculous, snooty artist with a thing for hooves.

THAT SAID, this movie has got some problems, most of which I chalk up to lazy scriptwriters. For one thing, the dinner itself is almost a negligible part of the story.  I think it needed to be a much longer scene, given the fact it’s the premise for the entire movie, and both my spouse and I felt like the writers completely blew it when it came time to invent the characters for the other “schmucks” in the group.   I mean, here was their chance to think up some truly creative, stunningly bizarre people and the best they could come up with was “dude with a really big moustache”?  Pretty lame.  For serious.

Also, there were several scenes in this movie that just didn’t need to be there.  I got impatient with the whole Darla the Stalker subplot, for one thing, and also the brunch scene with the Swedes.  Those elements weren’t funny enough to warrant as much screen time as they got, and I think the movie would’ve been a lot stronger if the writers had spent a little more time with the screenplay. It needed some hammering out.  Some moving around.  Some polish.  Some more dead-mouse dioramas.  And, of course, more, more, MORE. . . Bruce Greenwood.

Overall, however, if you’re looking for a silly flick for a sunny summer afternoon and you’re in the mood to laugh, you could do a lot worse (Dogs & Cats: Kitty Galore, anyone?).  Comedies aren’t typically my favorite genre because they can be so hit or miss for me, but I really did have fun with this one.  I’ll go ahead and declare it recommended:  Recommended!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View (hilarious) trailer]

Genre: Comedy
Cast:  Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Bruce Greenwood, Larry Wilmore, Ron Livingston


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