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Submitted by on July 25, 2010 – 8:42 pm 18 Comments

With the title Dinner for Schmucks and Paul Rudd and Steve Carell as leads, you might think the movie (opening July 30) would be a laugh riot. Turns out, I barely cracked a smile.

Rudd plays Tim, an executive after a big promotion who must first pass muster by bringing the biggest idiot to a monthly dinner hosted by his boss (Bruce Greenwood). Though he’s indecisive about attending the event after his girlfriend disapproves, Tim finds the perfect candidate when he hits Barry (Carell) with his car. Barry builds mice dioramas, is socially inept and seems to be Tim’s perfect ticket to that promotion. Eventually, of course, Tim discovers who the real schmucks are.

The most amusing thing about the movie, based on the French film Le Diner de Cons, is the opening credits, when we see Barry creating his delightful dioramas with meticulously dressed mice set in charming scenery. Then it’s all downhill from there, a head-scratching turn of events considering the cast, which also includes Lucy Punch and Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement and Kristen Schaal, all capable of being very funny. They’re hampered by a script by David Guion and Michael Handelman that seems to think outrageousness equals hilarity, which it doesn’t, at least not here. Clement used to make me laugh out loud on Conchords because the humor (which he wrote with Bret McKenzie) was rooted in reality. Here, he’s forced to wear crazy outfits and do weird things just for shock value, resulting in scenes that are simply ridiculous.

I was also dismayed by director Jay Roach having Rudd in his movie and not allowing him to be funny, not even once. Rudd plays the straight man and mostly has to act exasperated at everyone’s antics. The squandered opportunity for inspired riffing with his co-star is frustrating. Carell, who is just as good a dramatic actor as a comedic one, makes Barry sympathetic but we’ve seen this performance before. Barry’s innocence is reminiscent of Andy’s in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and his inappropriate comments are similar to what comes out of Michael Scott’s mouth every week on The Office. Barry does provide some heart but I wish the movie had more of a funny bone.

Nerd verdict: Dinner‘s an empty dish

Photos: Merie Weismiller Wallace



  • Alobar King says:

    Wow, that is so strange. I saw it at a word-of-mouth screening in a mall in Denver a couple night ago and people were HOWLING. Steve Carell, Zach G., Jemaine, all got huge laughs with the audience. And Paul Rudd? Hilarious! And likable. He’s like Jack Lemon in the film, with his physical comedy, during the back-injury scene, and his “me you know vs. the me you don’t know” trying to make a wrong thing right.

    Sorry you didn’t have a good time. Off day?

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Hi Alobar, and welcome. I don’t think I was having an off day since I was excited to see this. I hadn’t seen the trailer and was just drawn by the leads and Clement, all of whom I like, especially Rudd. For the reasons I mentioned, though, I didn’t find it funny. I don’t think there’s a wrong or right reaction; we can’t all like the same thing, right?

  • The trailers for this movie left me cold, and your review confirmed my gut instinct.

  • le0pard13 says:

    I’m with Sue Ann. I saw little in the trailer that made me want to see it. I’d rather breakout 40-year Old Virgin and Get Smart to get my Steve Carell fix (who I really enjoy). I’ll want for it on Netflix. Thanks, Elyse.

    p.s., how were your parents on their visit? Hope they had a good stopover.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      It was great visiting with my folks, thanks for asking. They just left last night on a red-eye. I wish they’d move out here since we have much better weather. My dad loves the ocean and even tried skateboarding!

  • Novelwhore says:

    PCN I’m with you – I saw the trailers and wondered who the audience is and how the plot could hold up for the length of an entire movie – which obviously it did not. I don’t even really understand the concept – what kind of professional experience requires a humiliating dinner guest before a promotion? Thanks for not letting me waste my time on this one! But sad too, since I do enjoy Paul Rudd.

  • Alobar King says:

    In your experience, are trailers typically indicative of the actual film? Trailers are made by ad men. I’ve been fooled more than once, in both directions. I saw the trailers for Schmucks, and was not excited. Then I got dragged to a preview by a friend. Good thing! It’s so much better than the trailers… Has funny broad moments, but Carell’s character is as good as Peter Sellars in Being There or John Candy in Planes Trains and Automobiles. Trailer doesn’t show that. The final film has already gotten three-for-three good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and much other good press in my town.

  • Travis says:

    That’s too bad. I saw the French version in a theater years ago known as The Dinner Game. I thought it was one of the best comedies of the 90s and had it on VHS, but lent it away into the ether. I was hoping Roach would make it work, but it doesn’t sound like it. I guess I’ll rent it down the road.

  • EIREGO says:

    I was afraid it wasn’t going to be funny when I saw the trailer. Love Rudd and Carell, but only when they are involved with a comedy coming from a positive place. This one seems to be coming from a mean place and the jokes don’t seem all that funny. I’m afraid this will be more along the line of Evan Almighty or I Love You, Man rather than The 40-Year Old Virgin.

  • PCN, great as the cast may be, you’ve never given me a bum steer on a review yet. Actually, the movie title is enough to make me hesitate. I might invest the time more wisely by making myself a cute little mice diorama instead ~ it looks rather adorable!

  • The same premise was neatly done in an old episode of the Britcom, ‘Citizen Smith.’ I don’t think the concept would easily stretch into a full-length film. Plus, of course, the film doesn’t have the brilliant Robert Lindsay in a lead role.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Ooh, I like Brit series but have never seen Citizen Smith. Do you recommend it?

      • Unless you’re really, really into Britcoms I don’t recommend Citizen Smith. I do recommend – because it’s funny and smart and I’ve never seen anything else like it – Nightingales. Not the nurse drama made in the US. Britcom Nightingales was a surreal series about three night watchmen. I think there may only be about a dozen episodes. As with most shows that are ahead of their time, it couldn’t last.

  • How, how, how can it have such a stellar cast including the Flight of the Conchords folks and it’s bleh? Argh. I hate it when there is such a fab group and it just falls flat. And how can Paul Rudd play the straight guy? He’s great at throwing out the funny one lines with a confused or annoyed look on his face. What a limiting script for this entire cast!

  • EIREGO says:

    Okay, got dragged into a matinee of Schmucks and man do I feel like one!

    There was some laughter in the audience, but it all came from a 4 or 5 teen boys who, given the smell coming off them, were under the influence of some serious herb. I did smile more than once, but that was because of those mice. People, seriously, wait for the dvd.

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