Dinner for Schmucks

Here’s the setup: Paul Rudd’s character is trying to get a promotion to impress his girlfriend into marrying him. While working the corporate ladder, he discovers the seedier underbelly in the attitudes of those he’s aspiring to rise with. Not only does he have to kiss the right asses but he has to stoop down to playing a childish, mean game that involves inviting “extraordinary” individuals to dinner one evening for the sole purpose of making fun of them and crowing a king idiot. This all takes place without the contestants understanding the true nature of the event and the supposedly elite laughing at their guests while pretending to honor them.

Leading up to the event is where the story builds and the characters are introduced. After being faced with the dilemma of having to find his own guest for the dinner, Rudd’s character literally runs into Steve Carell through which event Rudd realizes he’s found his guest. So here’s where the conflict starts and doesn’t relent until about 3/4 way in.

Now they start to establish some of the schmucks with Carrell as the center piece. Granted he’s supposed to be annoying but I found him too much so to the point where some of the scenes were not only hard to watch but genuinely made me want to turn off or fast forward. It was hard to feel or even want to feel any sympathy for him. His rudeness, stalker-like qualities, and awkward weirdo vibe isn’t very fun or funny, perhaps that’s the point but it still doesn’t make it very enjoyable to watch.

Rudd too for that matter considering how much of a spineless dick his character is. Not only is he being a deceptive kiss ass but he lets everyone just kind of do what they want without doing much to prevent getting sand kicked in his face. It was a bit much when he had his car destroyed by a crazy ex when he could’ve simply drove off, that just seemed set up and kind of stupid.

Luckily by the time the dinner starts, there’s a shift. It’s when the characters start to arc that you not only start to feel sympathy but that they come off genuine, interesting, funny and a dare I say, endearing. When the truth comes out about the dinner and the mayhem ensues, the movie becomes a lot more enjoyable to watch, The mice segments at the end are a hoot and the redemption delivered by Rudd completes the upward trend and ends the movie on a high note.

Some good performances in here that include the talents of Zach Galifinakis, Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Concords), Ron Livingston, Larry Wilmore, Bruce Greenwood, and Kristen Schaal. Jay Roach directs.

If you can sit through the first 3/4 of the movie, I think you’ll find the last 1/4 makes it worth the wait (hopefully).

reviewed by Sean McKnight