I will honestly say that I had zero expectations for Dinner for Schmucks, the box office success of the weekend. It looked like a disappointing movie, but I gave it a chance, nonetheless. I left the theater even more disappointed than expected. Please, allow for me to explain…
Dinner for Schmucks had a cast SO hilarious and talented that I at least expected to laugh from start to finish, despite a premise ridiculous beyond words. Tim (Paul Rudd) is up for a big promotion, but in order to wow his boss (Bruce Greenwood), he must attend what is called a “Dinner for Winners”. Every attendee must invite the biggest idiot they can find. The person who brings the wackiest person wins. By chance, Tim encounters Barry (Steve Carell), who specializes in a very specific form of art: “Mousterpieces” – taxidermied mice, posed and dressed in various situations. Seeing this as a godsend, Tim invites Barry to the dinner and “hilarity” ensues.
My issues with the film are very specific. During the opening credits, I saw some very familiar and exciting names. Nick Kroll and Kristen Schall might be two of the funniest people in the film, but they aren’t given a chance to let that show due to very nebulous roles. Jemaine Clement fortunately plays a large part, but it wasn’t enough to make up for misguidance of the talents of Zach Galifianakis and Carell. Also, was it necessary to include Jeff Dunham? Seriously.
My one other issue is one that could be a potentially larger problem. Paul Rudd is immensely talented and quick witted. We all know that. When he is in a starring role, he tends to play the sensitive romantic-guy who slips up and potentially ruins his relationship. It was the case in I Love You, Man and it’s the case in Dinner for Schmucks. It worked in ILYM because the audience got a chance to get to know the character. We liked him. We rooted for him. And then America screamed “Totes McGotes” in unison. Such was not the case in DfS. The movie begins and then we are told “hey – it’s Paul Rudd. You know his deal. Moving forward…” I’m afraid that’s not enough sometimes. In this movie, he hits a guy with his car and his main concern is circumventing the law. I don’t think I want to root for that guy. His character also made an easily avoidable mistake by revealing too much information. When his girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak) assumed she was invited to the secret dinner, Tim explained what it was, rather than saying “It’s just the partners” or whatever. Rather, he explained that he had some sort of asshole alter-ego that does awful things for the good of their relationship, thus resulting in the major point of conflict in the film.
So there’s my two cents for Dinner for Schmucks. I should have known better than to see any movie advertised as “by the director of Meet the Fockers“. Next time, they can use the same cast, but make an entirely different movie.