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Skippy Goes To The Movies! “Dinner For Schmucks” August 2, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Movies.
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Verdict: I feel like a schmuck for having paid to see this.

Children, they say that the hardest kind of movie to make is a comedy. After “Dinner for Schmucks” finally ended, I was convinced of the veracity of that statement. How could a comedy that had so much going for it suck so completely and utterly hard? This movie should have been a home-run: it had Steve Carell and Paul Rudd—two comedy pros who’ve worked together before (see: “The 40 Year Old Virgin”), an intriguing premise, and a ton of other comedy veterans (y’all, the guy who plays Roy on the hilarious Britcom “The IT Crowd” is in it!). This should have been the second coming of “There’s Something About Mary”—it should have been a farce that would have audiences rolling in nonstop laughter.

But it wasn’t. Oh, dear lords of Kobol, it wasn’t.

Oh, it starts out promising enough. Tim (Paul Rudd) is an investment analyst at a Douchebag Corporation. His coworkers are all Certified Douchebags, his assistant is hilariously trying to motivate him to get a promotion so she can get away from the people who irritate her, and his art museum curator girlfriend keeps turning down his wedding proposals (he’s asked her twice in the space of two days). Tim’s aspirations bring him in contact with his corporation’s head, played by Bruce Greenwood. I don’t remember the character’s name, but I do remember him from his role as Captain Pike in Star Trek, so I’ll just call him Corporate Pike. Corporate Pike tells Tim that, based on his headstrong idea to woo a new client, he’s invited to a special dinner—but if he wants to impress him, he needs to bring an idiot. As you might know from the commercials for this movie, the douchebags all bring an idiot (who thinks they’re going to a dinner to honor them as winners) and at the end of the evening, the biggest idiot receives a token award and the douchebag who brought them puts him or herself in line for a promotion. How egalitarian!

Tim is told specifically to not tell anybody about the nature of this dinner. So, what does he do? He tells his art museum curator girlfriend Julie about the nature of this dinner. She, of course, implores him to not go through with this dinner, blah, blah, blah, it’s a horrible idea. I quickly began to hate Julie. When Tim tells her that there are many sides to him–a side that is nice and a side that is not so nice, Julie turns into such a Pollyanna, I was ready for little cartoon birds and deer to appear and sit at her beatific side and partake of her goodness.

Tim, being a bit of a schmuck himself, is talking on the phone and texting while he’s driving. He doesn’t see Barry (Steve Carell) stepping out into the street to pick up a dead mouse and hits him. Blah, blah, blah, Tim realizes he’s got himself a prime candidate in Barry. You see, Barry stuffs dead mice and poses them in various human settings (weddings, strolls in the park, balloon rides, etc.). See? He’s a total schmuck. Plus, Barry is the most clueless human being ever to be committed to celluloid. This man has absolutely no awareness of any social conventions. This is a man who will do the following:

* show up unannounced and uninvited to Tim’s house
* answer an IM intended for someone else
* speak inappropriately and out of turn
* invite someone’s crazy, stalkery ex into their home
* invite himself along to someone else’s honeymoon

How am I supposed to feel anything for this guy other than a burning desire for Tim’s Porsche to have hit him a lot harder?

After some initial chuckles, the movie began to drag. Subplots involving Tim’s stalkery ex, a waaaaaay narcissistic artiste, and an idiotic “mind reader” who stole Barry’s wife derailed the early momentum of the movie. By the time we finally got to the damned dinner, I had lost interest in the movie. The dinner itself didn’t deliver the comedic payoff necessary to make up for sitting through the movie’s turgid middle. To be sure, it was funny—just not funny enough to make me forget that I sat through about 45 minutes of unnecessary mugging by Carell.

The problem with this movie was that it didn’t know what it wanted to be. Did it want to be a romantic comedy? Did it want to be a farce? A dramatic comedy? A black comedy? It tried too hard to be too much. Further, in order to maintain a PG-13 rating, some of the dialog had to be written so as not to use stronger profanities. The result was several lines that sounded like they were written by sixth grade boys.

It’s been a while since a movie ended and I thought, “Well, thank god that’s over!” Let’s hope that Carell and Rudd never make another movie that induces that kind of thinking.

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