Maybe I need to start having dinners where funny people show up and do funny things. Be a lot better than my past couple of Thanksgivings.
Tim Conrad’s (Paul Rudd) boss hosts a dinner party where he invites his friends to bring along the saddest, most pathetic loser they can find. But when the ultimate schmuck Barry (Steve Carell) arrives, his actions somehow turn everyone else into the losers.
This is based on a French film that I still have yet to see, and even though i had tremendously low expectations going into, I actually really liked it.
Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) has a big knack for putting a nice guy in an excruciating situation that just keeps on getting more bizarre and more bizarre as the film goes on but I still found myself laughing at almost everything that was going on. The set pieces are used incredibly well because this is a film that isn’t afraid to be weird and then get weirder some more. I laughed so much here that I surely was totally surprised by the end of the film.
Roach also directs this film with a surprising sweetness even when it’s too busy relying on farcical misunderstandings, I never actually found myself at what Roach was trying to sympathize with. The friendship that Tim and Barry actually create is funny but at the same time a very sweet thing and you see how these have each others backs in many situations which makes this film a lot more than just a crazy bizarro fest after all.
However, what really stung me as weird with this film was that it tells us it’s not right to laugh at schmucks but for the whole hour and 54 minutes, that is exactly what you are doing. This seemed very strange to me as I had no idea what Roach was trying to convey across the film and when everything was over, I just kept wondering if I should feel guilty or not for laughing.
Another problem here was the actual tone itself, which at first I didn’t have a problem with but it does start to actually go all-over-the-place and take away more from the comedy and sweetness aspects of the film. Also, the chick in this film named Julie played by Stephanie Szostak is pretty lame and I didn’t really find anything about her that was so damn amazing for Rudd to keep on fighting for her and having the film itself go back to her.
Steve Carell is always somebody that has me laughing no matter what it is that he does and his role as Barry is just downright hilarious. What sets Carell apart from a lot of other comedians is that he can play a total moron, while still being able to tug at your heart-strings just by being so damn lovable. Barry is a wild and crazy little bird that at times wasn’t always a total dipstick, which had me truly not knowing just what he was going to do next. Paul Rudd is incredibly likable and although he associates with total jit-bags, played so well by Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston, you’re still pulling for him. Rudd stands there with a straight-face while everyone else around him is goofy, but he still has his moments where he is just downright hilarious as well.
The rest of the cast filled with plenty of other comedic heavy-hitters are great as well. Jemaine Clement almost steals the show as the artsy freak, Kieran Vollard and just provides that signature weirdness that just doesn’t let us take his character seriously at all; Lucy Punch is also good as Darla and has some insanely sexy scenes; Chris O’Dowd is also good here as Marco the blind swordsman; and Zach Galifianakis plays Therman, an auditor that can control your mind, and his scenes with Carell are some of the funniest in the whole film.
Consensus: The tone may be a little shifty and the central message is very strange as well, but Dinner For Schmucks has a hilarious cast, some very funny moments, and an unabashed sweetness to it that actually brings much more heart to this material than I actually expected.