“Dinner for Schmucks” is everything most people would expect it to be but yet, it still has an endearing way to surprise you. While obviously appealing to its box office potential, “Dinner for Schmucks” still retains its comic edge, without the easy ploys and extreme gags that seems prevalent in modern comedies.
Paul Rudd plays Tim Conrad, with his now signature sarcastic straight-laced protagonist. Ambitious Tim Conrad seeks a new promotion within his company from a lowly Analyst of the private equity firm. When embraced with the opportunity, company president Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) suggests he attend a dinner with his associates. The dinner institutes the concept of a dark game; Who can bring the most gut wrenchingly bizarre, moronic person to entertain them? Whoever’s person wins, gets brownie points with Mr. Fender and could land Tim the promotion easily.
After meeting by pure coincidence, Tim meets Barry Speck, portrayed by Steve Carell, who I would suggest as being typecast if he didn’t readily execute the loveable idiot so well. After their awkward meeting and learning Barry’s unique yet disturbing hobby, Tim invites him to the dinner against his better judgment. This upsets Tim’s girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) which mounts on their glaring problems. Though his intention are pure, Barry latches on to Tim in pure stalker fashion and forcefully insists on repairing the frayed relationship. I couldn’t help but flashback to a definite less creepy but just as systematically destructive Jim Carrey in “The Cable Guy”.
Jay Roach (“Austin Powers”/”Meet the Parents”) directs this novel premise from the 1998 original French film “Le Diner de Cons” (“The Dinner Game”). Roach does what he always does, assemble an intriguing cast and let your actors mold your material. Not through impromptu situations but rather through convincing your audience that nobody else could play the core of these characters more solidly.
Great comic pairings are rare. Yet, Rudd and Carell seem to clash their individual methods of comedic timing and create blundering chemistry. I knew exactly what to anticipate from each actor, as neither of these roles is a far stretch from either’s previous work. I was pleasantly impressed they could banter with each other and never lose the audience within some of the droning dialogue. The best comedians are scrutinized not on what he/she says but how he/she says it. This is where Rudd and Carell excel, in the subtle adaptation of molding their normally uninteresting characters into unbridled hilarity.
The film truly benefits from the elaborate casting of vast supporting roles of buffons. Everyone truly contributed from; Zack Galifianakis (“Hangover”), Ron Livingston (“Office Space”), Jeff Dunham (“Spark of Insanity”), etc. Apart from the main course, without these side items of laughter, I could see the audience growing tiresome of Barry’s antics and Tim’s ho-hum attitude toward his life downfall.
The climatic dinner party scene was beyond funny which displays director Jay Roach’s patience in methodically building up this comedic gem to the absolute breaking point. As “Dinner for Schmucks” occasionally stumbles over predictable plot pitfalls and bland source material, it’s largely obscured and compensated by great cast collaboration on all levels.