Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

August 13, 2010

A gathering of fools!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:15 pm

August 13, 2010

Cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Jemaine Clement, Zach Galifianakis

Director: Jay Roach

In Dinner for Schmucks, wealthy Wall Street investment analysts invite idiots to a dinner, holding a contest to see who has found the biggest clown. Based on the excellent 1998 French film, The Dinner Game which was shamelessly plagiarized as Bheja Fry in 2007, this Hollywood remake is a distinctly unfunny affair.

Steve Carell stars as oddball Barry Speck, an IRS auditor who spends his spare time collecting dead mice and dressing them up in costumes to so he can place them in his elaborate tableaux. Barry turns out to be the perfect candidate for Tim (played by Paul Rudd) to take to his boss’ dinner, despite his girlfriend’s disapproval over his participating in this rude custom.

The key factor that separates the French original from this American hack-job is the characterization of Tim, who’s portrayed as a nice guy going through this exercise because it appears to be the only way he’ll get a promotion at work. In The Dinner Game, that character is written as a cheating, lying rascal who enjoys the dinner tradition and looks forward to finding a unique candidate each time. As a result, when this character gets his comeuppance in the French film, you don’t find yourself feeling much sympathy for him, like you do for Tim here.

Dinner for Schmucks recycles many of the same jokes from the French film, but it’s also a good example of how Hollywood tends to botch up a perfectly good idea with unnecessary excess. The film’s actual dinner party scene is a long and tedious track that, incidentally, never existed in the French original, which focused on the havoc that the dinner guest creates in his new friend’s life as soon as he walks into his home. Those bits, in fact are the best bits in Dinner for Schmucks too. Within moments of showing up at Tim’s apartment, Barry has driven Tim’s girlfriend away, invited a ferocious stalker and allowed her to wreck the place, and caused serious back injury to Tim.

The comic chemistry between Carell and Rudd is easily this film’s only strong point. The rest of the humor appears labored and forced, although much of  it is delivered by some remarkable funny men including The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis, Little Britain’s David Walliams, and Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords. The problem, to be fair, isn’t with the actors, it’s with the script which is overwritten with silly, slapstick jokes.

I’m going with two out of five for Dinner for Schmucks. I recommend you seek out the original French film on DVD, it’s a far more entertaining watch and stars the incredibly hilarious Jacques Villeret as the bumbling, idiot hero. Truth is, even Bheja Fry was funnier than this Hollywood remake!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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