Dinner for Schmucks, directed by Jay Roach (Meet the Parents) and starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, is a unique incarnation of a very formula-inspired story. The formula is simple: Guy-With-the-Right-Intentions-and-Wrong-Priorities gets his head set straight by clingy Disaster-Waiting-to-Happen who ruins his life while teaching him valuable life lessons. This is a classic What-Else-Could-Possibly-Go-Wrong movie in the spirit of Mouse Hunt (hmm…ironic, considering the hobby of a main character), that derives most of its hilarity from classic misunderstandings, awkward scenarios and wacky character acting.
Tim (Rudd) takes advantage of an opportunity to move up a floor at work, only to find that his character and values will be tested to their limits. He digs his own grave when he lies to his girlfriend to diffuse her disapproval and invites taxidermist Barry to be the unwitting entertainment at a private dinner. The stakes are driven higher as Barry continues to bungle Tim’s affairs, and in the end Tim finds out that nothing is idiot-proof to a sufficiently talented idiot – even success.
Steve Carell delivers a great performance as the oblivious Barry and the comedic chemistry with Rudd works pretty well. Though Barry’s character reminded me of Michael Scott from the office, I think Carell succeeded in making Barry his own brand of ‘special.’
The dialogue was funny when paired with the acting talent, though I couldn’t help but feel some scenes stretched their luck. I laughed quite a bit but, as my cousin said when the movie was done, you kind of have to be in the right mood for it.
The moral lesson was familiar but still valid: Successfully achieving ‘The American Dream’ isn’t worth hurting people in the process. I would definitely suggest renting it and having a beer or two while you watch.
By C. Noel Carlson