James Helsby

LRE #48: Dinner for Schmucks

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
Dinner for Schmucks

Release Year: 2010

Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis

For once, in a very long time, I actually thought that Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) was hilarious. Seriously.

Steve Carell has definitely come a long ways from his early years. It’s been 20 years since he played the part of Tesio in the 1991 film, Curly Sue. Carell only had his second film in 2003 staring as Evan Baxter in the comedy film Bruce Almighty. And while he had a pretty well established television career, staring in the Daily Show, it wasn’t until 2005 when he landed the lead in 40-Year-Old Virgin, that he really came into his own.

Staring in Schmucks as Barry Speck, Carell plays the part of an IRS agent who could be described as an idiot. And that is the entire point of his character. But Carell is only one part of the equation. The other side of the coin is Paul Rudd. Rudd plays Tim Conrad, and up-and-coming financial executive who has dreams for much more. When an opportunity presents itself to schmooze with a Swiss multi-millionaire ‘Mueller’, who is the epitome of eccentric, Tim steps up and makes all the right moves.

He spent the time researching Mueller, and has got his foot in the door. But in order to land the big promotion that Tim has been searching for, for the last few years, Tim must accomplish one additional goal. Tim’s boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) is his own level of eccentric. And every so often throws a very special dinner, one in which all the guests must bring a ‘unique’ person. The most unique, truth told… the biggest idiot, gets an award. Tim must attend the dinner, in order to win the promotion.

But Tim’s girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak) heartily disagrees with the concept. And so Tim is left in a dilemma; Dinner and promotion, or appease the girlfriend. While driving to the office one morning, Tim mows over Barry with his Porsche. Barry was standing in the middle of the street, trying to pick up a dead mouse. Barry creates amazing dioramas of dead mice in various world locations and costumes, re-inacting famous events, like the first flight in Kitty Hawk. Or Ben Franklin.

Tim decides that fate has dealt him a card that he must play, and so dinner is on with Barry as the perfect guest. But Barry is the most relentless character you have ever seen. Just his presence makes every single situation into something much much more awkward. And when Julie leaves Tim, Barry tries desperately to help Tim get her back. Not because he feels bad, but because… well… just because.

Dinner for Schmucks tries to be a light hearted film about a simple man, and how he can live a simple life without anyone needing to ridicule him. Sometimes, it’s only perception that makes things simple. And while you or I might think of him as an idiot, it’s just not that easy to judge. We all do idiotic things at times, and when we take the path of looking down on some one so blankly, we can ignore all the wonderful things that they might bring.

But the problem with Schmucks is that it takes a little too much time being Borat, and not enough time being Reading Rainbow. The number of times that I coward away from the screen because of an uncomfortable situation was astonishing. But all in all, I had quite a lot of fun with the film. The humor was great, the situations were uncomfortable, but always dealt with in a humorous fashion, and the actors were awesome.

I mentioned in the teaser that Jermain Clement was hilarious, and up until this point I haven’t mentioned anything about him. There is a reason. His part in the movie is totally supportive, but awesomely so. The thing is that I don’t want to give away his part. He is in the majority of the film, but for the first few minutes of his screen time, I didn’t recognize him. Rest it to say that it was a perfect part for him, and I found more humor in his character than in most of the others.

Schmucks didn’t make the usual error that a film like this would make. Typically, when you have an ‘idiot’ character, you need to have redemption. That the character is secretly smart, and just gets themselves into bad situations, or just isn’t ‘Book’ smart. Schmucks takes a different approach; while Berry might have talents that are impressive to behold.. He is still an idiot. And he remains an idiot right up to the end. I applaud them for this.

Schmucks isn’t a horrible movie, but it could be a little difficult to watch. It’s rated PG13 mainly for sexual sequences and language, and 1 finger amputation. But if you can look past those things, you should be in for a treat. It isn’t overly deep, but be warned that you might squirm a little.

How painful was it: It’s not 40-year-old Virgin, or Hot Tub Time Machine, but it can stand on its own. Some good humor, but also kinda weird.

Rating: 6/10. It was pretty darn funny, but the number of times I felt uncomfortable laughing brought me down.

The Wife’s Retort: How can something so funny, make me feel so uncomfortable?

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