Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Hard to Laugh at

Based upon the film Le Diner de Cons, Dinner for Schmucks is the Hollywood remake directed by Jay Roach, who is better known for being at the helm of films such as the Austin Powers trilogy, and Meet the Parents/Fockers, all of which are some of my favourite comedies. Dinner for Schmucks however isn't that laugh a minute forgettable flick, but rather is a more sombre tale to remind us of the little guy that's always around, easy to tread on and bullied by the high and mighty.

Paul Rudd stars as Tim, an analyst who is dreaming of moving upwards in his company's corporate ladder. He gets the attention of CEO Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) through a rather brash stand out moment during a meeting, and is given that 5 minute elevator pitch to join the firm's head honchos in a dinner where he would be welcomed into the fold if he can meet their expectations - that is to bring along an idiot as his dinner guest, and they were all to laugh at him. The objective is secret of course, and everyone will bring someone in a competition of sorts. It's unorthodox and reeks of elitism, but desperate to get that cushy job, he goes against the wishes of his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) and fate allows him to bump into Barry (Steve Carell), a simpleton taxidermist who works on mice.

As you can predict, much of the comedy comes at the expense of Barry, who speaks funny, behaves oddly, and most of the time you wonder if you're guilty of the same if you were to laugh at him and his antics. It's evil that we get to laugh at someone who's most unfortunate and naive, but that's how David Guion and Michael Handelman's story sets it out to be, with Barry being the fall guy at the receiving end of the butt of the jokes, while Tim slowly undergoes a painful lesson the ill intentions go through a karmic circle as we see his life turn upside down where misfortunes become lucky escapes which in turn sets itself up for a bigger fall.

Steve Carell is a great comedian, and like his Maxwell Smart in Get Smart, his Barry here is loony with a capital L, who lives life in his own cocoon which I suspect had snapped when his wife cheated on him with his boss Therman (Zach Galifianakis), who claims to possess the power to read minds since he works in the tax bureau and can see through guys hiding something. The major scene played in the office is nothing but insane and frankly, idiotic, but sets itself up nicely for the big mano a mano in the last act, which unfortunately came across as a little stretched. Thanks to Carell's presence, he brings to life a comedy of disastrous situations though it's still a little bit unnerving to consciously know you're laughing at someone's misfortune.

With the strong underlying message of what friendship means and how we learn to accept the drawbacks of our friends, Paul Rudd stars in his second bromance after I Love You, Man to explore just that, but it's Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) who steals the show as Kieran the artist who's so full of himself and pretentious. Now that is something I can wholeheartedly laugh at!

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