Film Reviews

"Dinner for Schmucks" Review: Mental Disability as Comedy

In Steve Carell's first few episodes of the American version of The Office, the series hewed closely to the template created by the series' British mastermind, Ricky Gervais. But in the United States, audiences didn't take to so bleak a comic vision, and soon, the tone of the series evolved from harsh satire to affectionate, gentle comedy. Ratings success ensued. That's a lesson well learned by the filmmakers behind Carell's new movie, Dinner for Schmucks, an American reworking of the 1998 French comedy Le Dîner de Cons. Francis Veber's original was fundamentally on the side of the idiots. Not so Dinner for Schmucks, directed by Jay Roach, which takes the snobbish, cruel editor of the original and turns him into Paul Rudd, the nicest young man you're ever likely to meet. Meanwhile, bowl-cut, windbreaker-wearing Barry (Carell) is not just an unctuous bumbler but is, in fact, borderline mentally disabled. That is the only conclusion I can reach after watching credulous Barry gleefully smash bottles of wine against the walls of Tim's apartment. Dinner for Schmucks is funny, sure. How can it not be, with good comic actors like Carell and Rudd — plus Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Kristen Schaal, and Ron Livingston? And rest assured, no American comedy is going to call itself Dinner for Schmucks without showing us the actual dinner for schmucks, which is, naturally, this movie's comic apogee. There's a blind fencer and a ventriloquist who's married to a slutty dummy and a guy who French-kisses his vulture. They're all idiots, or possibly mentally ill. Paramount Pictures and director Jay Roach would like to invite you to a dinner they're hosting, at which you are welcome to laugh at them.

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Dan Kois
Contact: Dan Kois