Dinner for Schmucks

Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and Zach Galifianakis star in a movie written by David Guion and Michael Handelman and directed by Jay Roach.

Has France ever made a crappy comedy from a mediocre American movie? Because we’ve sure done our share of the reverse, what with The Toy, Three Men and a Baby, and now this. Dinner for Schmucks is the latest attempt to make something sweetly goofy from a Gallic film, specifically one that hypocritically begged for public tolerance while it milked its own snobbery for laughs. Unfortunately, this version is sitcom boring, even though the writer and director worked hard to structure it as a faux class warfare comedy—even casting Ron Livingston, who played the lackadaisical anti-hero of Office Space, Peter Gibbons, to reinforce the false idea that this is a critique of corporate arrogance and soullessness.

Too bad it isn’t. In fact, it’s a lightweight comedy that the actors—mostly Steve Carell—have hijacked, turning it into something that’s terribly bland. The setup pretends to judge Paul Rudd’s overweening ambition; he has to bring an idiot to a fancy dinner to be ridiculed—over his fiancée’s objections. From there, the actors take over, going for the freaky factor any time it can trump coherent satire, and turning concepts into hammy performances. Most of the film feels like a waiting room for the funny dinner finale.

Schmucks is funny, but far from brilliant. Carell has become especially exhausting to watch, parading through such dud-ly films as Get Smart and Date Night, though he’s not quite Jim Carrey boring yet. And don’t let us get started on Zach Galifianakis, who still does great stand up, but, like this movie, is clearly dying a slow death on the big screen.


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