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Teen Review: ‘Dinner for Schmucks’

Think Twice About This Invitation

Above: Steve Carell and Paul Rudd star in "Dinner for Schmucks," the American remake of the French comedy "The Dinner Game."

This weekend’s new comedy, “Dinner For Schmucks” (opening July 30 throughout San Diego) falls into the category of terrible films that are made semi-watchable by the inherently funny people in them.

Boasting a cast that includes Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Ron Livingston (from "Office Space"), and Jemaine Clements (of “Flight of the Conchords” fame) along with the director responsible for the “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” films, this film clearly wasn’t lacking in comedic manpower. Yet the finished product (itself a remake of a French black comedy called “The Dinner Game”) is just so tedious and unsuccessful that it instills nothing but critical apathy.

The film tells the story of Tim (Rudd), a kind-hearted businessman who strives to climb the corporate latter and impress his girlfriend so she will finally agree to marry him. For Tim, these two goals are one and the same. Only problem is that, in order for Tim to earn corporate approval, he must attend a monthly dinner the execs hold where they put on display and humiliate a batch of complete idiots. Of course, Tim is at first repulsed by the idea; however, fate seemingly throws Tim the perfect idiot catch in Barry (Carell), an IRS agent for whom taxidermy has been elevated to an art form.

Through a series of mishaps and circumstance, Tim ends up spending more time with Barry than he ever intended, and both his personal and professional lives are put under tremendous strain because of it. But could this time spent together teach Tim a thing or two about friendship, being a better person, and taking responsibility for himself? Well maybe...oh, of course it will!

Paul Rudd contemplates the idiots in "Dinner for Schmucks."

Paramount Pictures

Above: Paul Rudd contemplates the idiots in "Dinner for Schmucks."

Look, the movie, is pretty bad. The myriad reasons include: bad pacing and comedic timing; poor character development; unabashed expository dialogue; and unsatisfying plot lines. In fact, it’s pretty close to awful. It just barely escapes that label because there are individuals at play here who are funny without even trying. Carell in particular is working overtime. It’s to his credit that Barry ends up being the most wholly realized and consistently entertaining character in the film. So for all the film’s failings, the simple fact is it did occasionally make me laugh. Jokes are coming at you a mile a minute and the frequency of ones that work is enough so that you don’t feel the crushing weight of the two hour run-time. Well,,, almost.

In the end, "Dinner for Schmucks" (rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language) is little more than a tired and tedious comedy... no matter how many jokes were kinda, sorta working for me. In fact, tedious is starting to seem like the optimal word for describing most of what I’ve seen this year. Considering the talent on display here, you’d hope they could have come up with something better than occasionally funny. Oh well…maybe I’ll just re-watch “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or “Austin Powers” to remind myself that these are indeed funny people who have only temporarily lost their way.  

-Michael Shymon just finished his freshman year at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where he's studying Film & Television Production. He's hoping one day all this movie watching will finally pay off. While he's home for summer break in San Diego, he'll be resuming his duties as a KPBS Teen Critic.

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