HUB Titles: Dinner for Schmucks
Once again, I find myself watching a movie starring Steve Carell. However, this time he is not a cartoon character. Not that he’s any less animated. Horrible puns aside, Steve Carell has livened up every show he’s done, from “The Daily Show,” to “Saturday Night Live,” to “The Office.” But what if he had to try to make a movie good on his talent alone? “Dinner for Schmucks” answers that question.
The Premise: The business world has not been kind to Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd). He’s stuck in “Office Space” but dreams of moving up on the corporate ladder. In order to be a big shot, he agrees to attend his jerk boss Lance Fender’s (Bruce Greenwood) “dinner for idiots.” The idea is to bring “special” people to a dinner and mock them. Being far from New Jersey, Tim’s search for an idiot seems hopeless until he runs into Barry Speck (Steve Carell). Barry and Tim engage in wacky hijinks for a while, but Barry’s antics cause trouble between Tim and his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak). Tim has to balance his life, his job, his girlfriend… and Barry.
The Performance: The story focuses around Paul Rudd’s character, but he is merely the straight man to Steve Carell’s nuttiness. Carell brings the energy only he can to this role. Unfortunately, the role is unworthy of him. He and Rudd are basically a comedy team, but Rudd can’t hold up his end of the comedy deal. The only laughs from this movie will be caused by scenes including Carell. He manages to beef up what would otherwise be average writing. All of the other actors besides Carell are there to fill the usual rundown of comedy roles: the plain dude, the girlfriend, the boss, the rival, etc. The one exception is Barry’s boss Therman Murch, played by Zach Galifianakis. Carell and Galifianakis work great together, and their exchanges are the most memorable parts of the movie. All two of them. A shame.
Other Thoughts: I wonder what would have happened if Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis mixed up scripts. Carell and Galifianakis would make one hell of a comedy duo, I’m sure. It says something when they can pull some laughs out of a rather uninteresting premise. They are funny in spite of this movie and not because of it. The script under-utilizes both of them, and I’m thinking their best jokes were likely ad libbed. Take them out of the cast and this movie is very forgettable. As it is, they take a bland film and bump it up to an average one. The fact that almost every sentence of this review contains or alludes to them merely proves my point.
Final Verdict: The Clown in the Library. It isn’t completely devoid of laughs, but each one takes a lot of effort. It’s basically a one man show that’s steeped in mediocrity. You’ll enjoy yourself in intervals. Expect long stretches in between chuckle worthy occurrences. Essentially, it’s just a distraction and you probably could have spent your time better somewhere else.