I remember, after seeing the trailer for Dinner for Schmucks, thinking “Christ on a bike, who the hell would want to see that movie?” before realizing that my buddy sitting next to me was excited about it. Begrudgingly, I agreed to see it with him, because he’s that movie buddy that will typically go see the films with me that no one else wants to see (except for Nightmare on Elm Street…looks like I’m waiting for the DVD on that one).
Before the film, I made sure to have a good amount to drink – what had I signed myself up for, I thought. I hate hate HATE Steve Carrell. I like Paul Rudd, but I find that the guy is starting to get into a bit of a rut, always playing the nice, straight guy in comparison to some kind of wacky other actor. Not only that, it was directed by Jay Roach, who directed the abysmal Meet the Parents movies. Not a strong pedigree….
…but even I have to admit that I didn’t hate the film. While I really don’t think I have a strong desire to ever see it again, Dinner for Schmucks does keep the laughs coming for the majority of the time. A remake of the 1998 French film The Dinner Game (“Le Dîner de Cons“), Dinner for Schmucks is much less mean-spirited than its predecessor. While the idea of a “dinner for idiots” sounds like you’re in for a dark comedy full of mean-spirited humor, the American version almost entirely avoids making a film that’s intended to make fun of people and instead focuses on how even wacky people are good inside. It’s a cheesy lesson, and you see the ending coming from the moment the film begins. I almost would have preferred that the film wore its mean-spiritedness with pride, rather than trying to fluff it up for a more general audience.
The main issue with Dinner for Schmucks is that it just tries too hard…on EVERYTHING. Characters do things entirely out of character just to make fodder for another slapstick moment. There are many times where Rudd’s character could get out of a bad situation just by being open and honest, or telling Steve Carrell to go away (neither of which would really result in any real consequences), but he never does. It’s like the film has to not make sense in order for it to work, and I think that it hurts it overall. Sure, there are some funny scenes, but I can’t help but feel like trimming out some of the excess would have sped up the almost 2 hour running time, and would have kept the film from getting so derivative.
There are some fun moments, and you’ll find yourself laughing almost the entire time, just to walk out of the film saying “meh.” Worth catching on cable or on DVD, but probably not worth heading out to the theater for.