Star cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak.
Plot: Paul Rudd is a rising executive who succeeds in finding the perfect guest, IRS employee Steve Carell, for his bosses’ monthly event, a so-called ‘dinner for idiots’, which offers certain advantages to the executive who shows up with the biggest buffoon. Things go wrong when Steve turns up one night earlier at Paul’s place, miffs his girlfriend, calls home a nymphomaniac and spoils all chances of Paul getting a promotion at work.
What’s Good: Steve Carell’s acting; his cute miniature stuffed mice puppets; Zach Galifianakis’ hilarious mind-control games.
What’s Bad: No novelty, especially for Indian audiences who might have seen Bheja Fry, which is based on the same story; the screenplay is weak in parts.
Verdict: Dinner For Schmucks is fun to watch, especially if you don’t have too high expectations.
Loo break: None.
DreamWorks’ Dinner For Schmucks is a situational comedy based on the French film, Le Diner de Cons by Francis Veber. Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is a well-to-do analyst at a financial firm, who very badly wants to be promoted so that he can convince his girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), to marry him. He manages to impress his bosses by sweet-talking a Swiss baron into being his company’s potential client. But there is something else Tim must do before he lands the promotion – he must present an ‘idiot’ for his bosses’ monthly event, a so-called ‘dinner for idiots’, which offers certain advantages to the executive who shows up with the biggest buffoon.
As fate has it, Tim bumps (literally) into Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS employee, who is as strange as they come. Barry has a weird hobby of collecting dead mice, preserving them as models in maquettes or miniature tableaux. He also subjects himself to ‘mind control’ by his boss, Therman (Zach Galifianakis), who is sleeping with Barry’s wife. Lonely, Barry sticks around with Tim and makes himself available the night before the planned dinner. His presence and stupidity then throw Tim’s life out of gear. Julie leaves Tim, supposedly for an exotic-sex maniac artiste; Darla, a nymphomaniac Tim had slept with three years ago, turns up at his door; Therman, Barry’s boss, starts a tax audit on Tim, when he refuses to believe that Therman can control anybody’s mind (Barry is happy to be mind-controlled, even if paralysed)… and so on and so forth. However, Barry soon finds out that Tim is really not his friend but is with him only because he wants to show off his talent at the dinner party. Nevertheless, Barry turns up at the dinner, equipped with his dead-mice tableaux, ready to impress Tim’s bosses. What actually happens at the ‘dinner for idiots’ forms the hilarious climax of the film.
Dinner For Shmucks makes an entertaining watch if you haven’t seen the 1998 original, The Dinner Game or Le Diner de Cons, or even the Bollywood adaptation, Bheja Fry. Despite Steve Carell’s good performance, his and Zach Galifianakis stupid but funny mind control vs. brain control game in the climax, the film fails to live up to the original or even the Hindi adaptation.
The screenplay, by David Guion and Michael Handelman, is patchy as they have tried to retain, as far as possible, the original story, without many improvisations. Director Jay Roach ably puts the film together, but could have done a better job. He ensures the right laughs and guffaws though. As mentioned, Steve Carell takes the cake as far as acting is concerned. He masterfully plays the stupid but simple Barry. Paul Rudd does a fair job. The director of photography, Jim Denault, and the modelers who built the mice maquettes, deserve special mention for making them look adorable.
All in all, Dinner For Shmucks makes for a fair watch. Some might wish it were better, others might want to go watch the original, but watch it for Steve Carell’s wonder act as the stupid guy.
– By Mrigank Dhaniwala