Review: ‘Dinner for Schmucks’ is a Twisted Party

This is Steve Carell’s best work since The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Dinner for Schmucks

Things are starting to look up for Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd). He is financially secure, has a gorgeous girlfriend, a chic apartment, and his boss has just singled him out for a potential promotion. The catch? Tim has to attend a dinner party with his boss and coworkers. Each guest is to invite one “person of special talent” (a euphemism for idiot). The coworkers will then have a contest to decide who has brought the true lord of the losers, at the expense of the “special” guests. Cruel doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Tim is ethically opposed to treating anybody in such a manner, but with his promotion hanging in the balance, his morals are on the chopping block. Besides, he has just discovered his golden ticket: Barry Speck (Steve Carell). Barry is the epitome of an idiot. He constantly bears a dimpled grin that just goes to show that ignorance is, indeed, bliss. He is persistently unaware of his surroundings. Not to mention his spare time goes into a hobby that is so absurd that I don’t dare spoil it for you.

However, you can only watch a man trying to pull open a door labeled ‘push’ for so many hours before you start to question how he has outlasted Darwin’s survival of the fittest for so long. Barry Speck is as naive as they come, spitting out social faux pas and malapropisms like an eight-year-old who has just been told about the birds and the bees in the middle of an elegant restaurant. At times, his actions and comments are so far out of left field that one wonders if he is even trying.

Dinner for Schmucks may not be comedic gold, but comedic silver certainly isn’t too much of a defeat. The burden of the comedic relief falls on the shoulders of a very well-rounded cast. From the flagrant callousness of Tim’s boss and coworkers, to the utter lunacy of Barry and the other guests of (dis)honor, the movie is filled with characters who are as exaggerated as they come.

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Unfortunately, the movie does suffer a bit from what has been dubbed the “idiot plot” in the world of cinema. That is, the plot is only allowed to continue through the inaction (or sometimes the illogical action) of a character. There are situations throughout Dinner for Schmucks where Tim can easily settle certain problems by calling the police, explaining his dilemma, or simply being more direct in what he says. But, of course, that wouldn’t be any fun.

Even though Dinner for Schmucks is way over the top, it is still full of laughs. This is Steve Carell’s best work since The 40 Year Old Virgin, and each of the actors play their parts with a vivacity that fits their oddball characters perfectly. The humor in film comes at a constant flow and ranges from slapstick comedy to squirm-in-your-seat awkwardness.

The climatic dinner scene is a stroke of pure hilarity with a mash-up of some incomparably outrageous characters. From the clinically insane to the pathetically untalented, the table is set for a circus rather than a dinner party. But when the meal is over and the dessert trays have been cleared, it’s pretty obvious who the real schmucks are.



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