D: Jay Roach. DP: Jim Denault. W: David Guion & Michael Handelman. Starring: Steve Carell/Paul Rudd/Jemaine Clement/Stephanie Szostak/Zach Galifianakis/Lucy Punch/Brain Greenwood/David Walliams/Ron Livingston/Larry Wilmore/Kristen Schaal. (Based on the Francis Veber screenplay for his 1998 film Le Diner de Cons.)
What summer line-up isn’t complete without a new chapter in the bromance chronicles of modern life. Early last summer we had I Love You, Man where Paul Rudd befriended Jason Segal in an effort to secure a best man for his upcoming wedding. This time we have, Rudd once again, befriending another guy for his own benefit. But this time only to bring him to his boss’ dinner, to yes, impress other guys.
Although instantly and consistently likable, yet relatable, Rudd sadly continues to be type cast as the average Joe nice guy who is either losing the girl he wants or messing things up with the girl he has. The word ‘sadly’ is used as Rudd is capable of so much more, even within the realms of comedy. Which is evident here in Dinner for Schmucks as his Tim endeavors to do the right thing and produce comedy that isn’t at the expense of others. His Tim is full of charm, although a bit reminiscent of last summer’s Peter. Even his girlfriend Julie, played by a delightfully real Stephanie Szostak, looks remarkably similar to Rashida Jones’ Zooey from I Love You, Man. Their coloring and look is so alike it almost reads as if Rudd is building up a certain look for his girlfriends in films.
Yet the real humorous element in the film is truly Carell, who may don glasses and dye his hair, but cannot mask the voice, smile, and delivery that has become his trademark. Carell’s Barry is so sweet, pathetic, and frustrating all at the same time that audiences will find it hard not to root for Rudd in his moments of complete amazement at the destruction Carell causes. And amid all this destruction Carell somehow is able to maintain Barry as more naive than stupid. A feat which only proves his understanding of comedy and his own talents within the genre. An understanding that was lacking in Date Night earlier this year. A film which was apparently heavily improvised, suggesting that Dinner for Schmucks probably relied more on its script and Roach’s direction (something evident in the laughter from uncomfortable moment ricocheting through the theater. A la Meet the Parents).
Dinner for Schmucks sports a couple cameos, sillier moments, and yes a sexy romp photograph sequence. Jemaine Clement must be given a round of applause and probably some scotch for his role as artist Kieran. His commitment and creative lunacy help to make even Barry seem put together and somewhat normal. Yet, the most memorable will probably be Galifianakis’ role as Carell’s boss. Besides thinking he has a special talent, Galifianakis remains remarkable in his ability to make laughs out of the hollowest and most basic of characters. And hopefully that is what most audiences will do is laugh. With a great supporting cast and Lucy Punch’s psychotic Darla to boot, it will be hard not to. Although it won’t end up as memorable as other comedies, Dinner for Schmucks clearly wants you to enjoy yourself and even miss lines of dialogue if you’re laughing.
So don’t worry now, it’s nothing, but a little bit of summer and a lot of silly.