Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quick Look: DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS

With a fun high concept and, with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, two of the most consistently funny comedic actors working today, it would be easy to assume Jay Roach’s Dinner for Schmucks (based on The Dinner Game, a 1998 French film) would be at the very least a serviceable comedy. That assumption would be wrong. This is a flat movie with no flow. It proceeds in awkward, ill-fitting chunks of plot. There are funny lines sprinkled here and there, but none achieve any real lift in the movie’s overall atmosphere. This is dismal, unfunny stuff: awkwardly placed broad shtick mingling freely with uncomfortable sentimentality. Rudd is asked by his boss (Bruce Greenwood), as part of a vetting process for a promotion, to find an idiot to bring to the company’s regular secret dinner where the execs make fun of the goofier side of the populace. Naturally, Rudd decides to bring Carell, a dim, amiable amateur taxidermist, after they meet in a traffic incident. The movie never goes too mean in its humor; neither the schmucks nor the ones planning on mocking them come under much withering comedic fire. The movie is watchable and pleasant, in an inoffensive way that would play best on TV late at night while everyone watching is half-asleep or passed out. That way the small smiles it sometimes inspires would feel a smidge more welcome, especially if you woke up in time to see one of the small, slightly funny moments given to someone like Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Schaal or Jemaine Clement. The movie bumbles along for far too long (nearly two hours!), coasting all the way on the talents of its leads while giving them very little chance to excel. There’s a sense of genuine camaraderie and chemistry between the two men that the movie never really gets around to exploiting, instead choosing to focus on funny voices and stupid misunderstandings. It could have been an updated Odd Couple, but is really just another one of those movies with the funniest bits in the commercials.

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