Hilarious, but often a little too drawn-out
Broad farce with a teeny bit of serious theme
All of the above
Definitely D. Dinner for Schmucks , Jay Roach’s new vehicle for Steve Carell had the audience laughing during the opening credits -- to the tune of the Beatles’
Fool on the Hill. Therein lies the teeny bit of serious theme -- who’s the real fool? But then it takes just a little too long to get back to the laughs.
Carell plays Barry, a dim-witted IRS employee whose hobby is creating dioramas with taxidermied mice as characters. The “straight man” is Tim, played by Paul Rudd, an executive trying to climb the corporate ladder by impressing the boss, Lance Fender (played by Bruce Greenwood), to get to the coveted “7th floor.” When he gets his invite to join the 7th floor crew, he learns that to get there and stay there, he must impress the boss and some wealthy clients by bringing the biggest “idiot” to a dinner where they will make fun of the “idiots” for entertainment. Of course, the victims of this charade believe that they’re legitimate honored guests. Tim’s series of misadventures begin when he encounters Barry and decides to use him as his “idiot”. Along the way, he tries to keep his girlfriend, who has declared Tim’s “initiation” task “messed up”, and his job,by creating an ever-expanding web of lies. The climactic scene, of course, occurs at the dinner, but it sure takes a long time to get there. The film drags in the beginning, but fortunately picks up steam as a plethora of eccentric characters enters the story-line.
Tim hits Barry with his Porche while Barry is in the middle of the street trying to pick up a dead mouse to stuff and use in a diorama. Horrified, Tim runs out to apologize and find out if Barry is all right (he is), and out of guilt, takes Barry back to his apartment. Then, Barry becomes the guest from hell who won’t leave because he wants to help Tim with his girlfriend and job problems. As the true extent of Barry’s deficiencies unfolds, I couldn’t help thinking of What About Bob? and Dumb and Dumber, which was a little bit distracting as I kept flashing back to those two films throughout this film.
Tim’s girlfriend-cum-fiance , Julie (Stephanie Szostak), is an art curator working on a show for an egocentric artist with a penchant for costumes, Kieran, played by the inhibition-less Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Concords), whose works are all self-portraits. Even with all of his self-involved kookiness, the guy is a chick magnet. Of course, Tim begins to worry that Julie will fall prey to Kieran’s charms when he believes that she has gone with the artist to his ranch(address unknown). Finally, the film picks up steam when Barry decides to “help” Tim by taking him to his IRS supervisor , Therman ( Zach Galifianakis), a man who, according to Barry, knows everything and can find any address. When Carell and Galifianakis are on screen together, the tear-inducing belly laughs begin. Therman is Barry’s nemesis, so it’s not hard to predict that he will show up at the dinner.
Of course, many complications ensue as the comedy of errors boils and bubbles, not the least of which is the arrival of Tim’s stalker, Darla. British actress Lucy Punch almost steals the show as the Tim-obsessed dominatrix, holding her own very well in her scenes with Carell, and everybody else, too. Of the rest of the zanies at the dinner, Octavia Spencer as Madame Nora, pet psychic, and Chris O’Dowd as Marco, the blind swordsman, stand out. Madame Nora’s beyond-the-grave conversation with the lobster entrees is a great schtick, but it goes on too long. Jeff Dunham’s ventriloquist is forgettable, as is the beard contest winner. Vincenzo the vulture guy? Vulture: yes; guy: not so much.
Will Tim get his girlfriend back? Will Barry escape his nemesis, Therman? Who will win the trophy for biggest idiot? And, most importantly, who are the greater fools -- the laugh-ers or the laugh-ees? You be the judge.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS opens in theaters everywhere on July 30, 2010.