Dinner For Schmucks


Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by:David Guion, Michael Handelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Bruce Greenwood, Stephanie Szostak, David Walliams
Released: September 30, 2010
Grade: B-

For many years, Tim (Rudd) has been working hard on the 6th floor of his private equity firm.  He’s been biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to earn a promotion and move up to the lucrative 7th floor.  His chance has now arrived.  He’s impressed the big boss (Greenwood) with a creative idea to earn the trust of a wealthy Swiss businessman.  It’s earned Tim an invite to a special dinner that the boss is hosting.

This is no ordinary dinner however.  Instead of bringing a bottle of wine or some appetisers, all the guests are asked to bring along an “idiot”.  The reason is solely for entertainment.  The other guests will laugh and mock these lower-class individuals (who won’t be in on the joke).  The biggest idiot will be awarded a special trophy at the end of the night.

I had a problem with this film and it stems from this strange storyline.  Is this supposed to be a farcical comedy or is it supposed to be a black comedy?  As you may have detected from my plot overview, the characters behind this dinner are quite sinister.  It is one thing to laugh at another’s misfortune but to set up such an elaborate sham is cruel.

I hoped this would be a dark comedy.  The premise reminded me of a brilliant 1997 film called In The Company Of Men which was directed by Neil LaBute.  It was about two guys looking for show their dominance over the female race.  They picked the most innocent woman they could find and set up an elaborate plan to crush her heart  It was a powerful film but very difficult to watch.  It’s why I can still remember it so vividly today.

Unfortunately, director Jay Roach (Meet The Parents) has gone with a much softer option with Dinner For Schmucks.  The “schmuck” that Tim has chosen is a random guy he ran into (literally) on the street.  His name is Barry (Carell) and he works as a taxidermist (mounting dead animals for display).  His favourite animal is the mouse and he’s got plenty of them stuffed at home.  He calls them his “mouse-terpieces”.

Barry is a complete nightmare.  He’s like the friend you just get rid of.  He comes across as well-intentioned but everything Barry’s involved with becomes a disaster.  Tim’s current girlfriend now hates him and his ex-girlfriend is now stalking him.  Is it all worth it?  Has he gone too far in order to earn this promotion?  I think we all know the answer to that question.

You can tell from the film’s tone that everything will work out in the end.  Trust me, I’m not giving much away there.  I didn’t like Steve Carell as Barry.  It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who seems to instigate so many of his own problems.  Paul Rudd isn’t any better.  The best characters are those who are supporting.  Jemaine Clement provides most of the highlights as a performance artist with an insatiable sex drive.

If you see this film as a simple farce, you’ll probably have some fun.  Even I had to laugh at a great scene where Tim has brunch with the Swiss businessman.  It’s not enough though to warrant a positive review.