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With: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood, David Walliams, Ron Livingston, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal, P.J. Byrne, Andrea Savage, Nick Kroll, Randall Park, Lucy Davenport, Chris O'Dowd, Jeff Dunham, Octavia Spencer, Patrick Fischler, Rick Overton, Eric Winzenried, Nicole LaLiberte, Maria Zyrianova, Scott Weintraub, Alex Borstein
Written by: David Guion, Michael Handelman, based on a screenplay by Francis Veber
Directed by: Jay Roach
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
Running Time: 114
Date: 07/30/2010

Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Idiot Friend

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A very loose remake of Francis Veber's annoying The Dinner Game (1998), Dinner for Schmucks is slightly less annoying than its predecessor in that stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd make an honest stab at some enjoyable characters. But it's still annoying in that screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman and director Jay Roach constantly undermine them by throwing in moronic slapstick and juvenile jokes about sex.

Rudd plays Tim, a low level executive in a financial firm who is hoping for a promotion. He nearly gets it, but to seal the deal, he must attend a special dinner. To this dinner, he must bring the biggest idiot he can find. The biggest idiot wins an award (under the title of "most extraordinary person"). Tim nearly crashes into Barry (Carell) with his car; Barry is a professional IRS man and an amateur taxidermist who makes little dioramas and portraits with dead mice.

Tim invites Barry to the dinner, and Barry mistakenly shows up a day early. During that day, he manages to bring a stalker (Lucy Punch) back into Tim's life, alienates Tim's girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak), brings him to a fellow IRS man (Zach Galifianakis) and gets him audited. But of course, over these same 24 hours, they become true friends. Barry must learn to stand up for him at the party and then take the blame for his own misfortunes. The brilliant Jemaine Clement co-stars in a throwaway role all too similar to his arrogant sci-fi author in Gentleman Broncos.

When the two lead guys are riffing onscreen, there are some laughs, but the film throws in some stupid comic violence and sex play; Barry of course knows nothing about sex, despite the fact that he was actually married at some point. (Alex Borstein makes a small cameo as the ex-wife.) We also get some of those pathetic sitcom situations in which everything could be solved if only everyone told the truth.

If this were a movie about characters rather than overcooked situations and desperate slapstick -- and a lot shorter -- we might have had something. The filmmakers simply did not believe that a big audience could handle that much subtlety. I mean, I'm not sure just how brilliant a movie about smart people laughing at idiots can possibly be, but I am sure that the filmmakers considered the audience a bunch of idiots before filming ever started.

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