Basic Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Tim Conrad (played by Paul Rudd) is an ambitious executive who, after securing a negotiation (and the potential business) of Swiss mogul Mueller (played by David Walliams), is invited by his boss to what is known within the company as the monthly “dinner for winners,” (Tim later learns that it is more accurately a “dinner for idiots”) in which each invitee must find a “unique person with a special talent” and bring them to the dinner – the most unique of the bunch is declared the “winner” and the executive who brings him/her secures bragging rights among his peers. The next afternoon, Tim meets Barry Speck (played by Steve Carell) after accidentally running him over. After getting to know Barry’s weird antics and hobbies, he invites him to the dinner the following evening. But as Tim gets to know Barry, he starts having second thoughts as to whether he should go through with the dinner at all…
The Pros: Once again, Steve Carell comes through with a performance that is not only noteworthy, but one that single-handedly SAVED this film. However, while his performance was most definitely exceptional, it was a contributing factor as to why I didn’t like the film all that much (more on that later). Slowly but surely, Steve Carell is becoming one of Hollywood’s “go-to” guys for any and every role – he currently has TWO films in the Top 5 at the box office – Schmucks and Despicable Me – films that appeal to two VERY different audiences. Anyway, back to the pros – there were a few hilarious lines in this film that I’m sure I’ll hear at least once before the end of the year (“I thought the clitoris was in her purse”). Finally, Stephanie Szostak, the chick who played Julie (Tim’s girlfriend) in the film – TOTAL BABE.
The Cons: First off, I was very disappointed that the Paul Rudd of old was nowhere to be found here. Now granted, I understand that he was trying to play a more serious character, but in my opinion, the guy simply came off as very unlikeable – even in scenes where the audience is SUPPOSED to like and sympathize with him. Secondly, the pacing of the film was WAY OFF (the aforementioned “dinner” does not take place until near the end of the film). Next, a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of the comedy came off forced and unfunny – in fact, there were LONG periods in this film where I found myself sitting on my hands NOT laughing, and asking myself, “isn’t this supposed to be a comedy?” And when I finally DID laugh, it was at Steve Carell, which is the final gripe I had about the film. Not to take away from Carell’s performance at all, since like I stated above, I think he SAVED this film, HOWEVER, I think this film sent a very mixed message as far as how we are supposed to react to these so-called “schmucks.” Throughout the entire film, we are subjected to the Barry character’s bizarre antics, to the point where the film is expecting us to laugh at him. Yet, at the end of the film (not to give anything away, but it is fairly OBVIOUS how it all ends), the audience is indirectly chastised for laughing at these “schmucks” when THE FILM HAS BEEN DOING EVERYTHING BUT MAKING US DO IT FOR THE PAST HOUR-AND-A-HALF.
Conclusion: I had high expectations going into Dinner for Schmucks, and those expectations were somewhat let down. While the film looks like your standard buddy-comedy fare from the outside, it’s actually a film that really doesn’t know whether it wants to be pro-or-anti-“schmuck” – in other words, lacking an consistent identity (much like TNA Wrestling, but that’s another issue altogether). Yet, through that mess, Steve Carell delivers YET ANOTHER terrific performance that gives life to what would otherwise have been a mundane character. Recommended for Steve Carell fans only – otherwise, WAIT FOR THE DVD.
Final Score: *** (3/5)
Look out for my review of Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, tomorrow afternoon (8/05).
Until then, I’m out!