What do you get when you cross Jay Roach, the director of Meet the Parents, with actors Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis? Dinner for Schmucks, a comedy that is only sporadically funny, and ultimately disappoints.
In order to achieve a big promotion at work, Tim needs to find an idiot to bring to his boss’ dinner party. After bumping into an unusual guy called Barry, Tim thinks he has found the perfect guest, little realising the impact Barry will have on his life…
Like many others, Dinner for Schmucks is a film that attempts to straddle humour with a more heartfelt narrative. Thanks to the performances of Rudd and Carell, the emotion seems genuine, yet the comedy is lacking in comparison. Surprising, considering the talent involved in the film. Whilst there are some laughs to be had, the film does not live up to expectations. The climactic scene, in particular, should have been much more humorous than it is.
As Barry, Carell is amusing, and elicits sympathy in the film’s more serious moments. However, some of the humour from this character falls flat, and he occasionally comes across as annoying. The most humorous characters in the film are Therman (played by Galifianakis) and artist Kieran (Jermaine Clement). Therman is comical in how serious he takes himself, whilst Kieran is often hilarious as the larger-than-life artist interested in Tim’s girlfriend. In a minor role, David Walliams is not as amusing as perhaps the filmmakers intended.
The film’s title sequence depicts the mice artworks (Barry’s hobby) being assembled with pain-staking detail. Accompanied by Theodore Shapiro’s lovely score, this introduction gives the impression of an offbeat, quirky little movie. The marketing for Dinner for Schmucks would suggest a raucous comedy. The end result in fact is neither of these; it is a comedy that fails to be consistently funny.
Furthermore, the message of the film conflicts too overtly with the aim. Whilst on the one hand the audience is supposed to laugh at the peculiarities of Barry, on the other we are told that it is wrong to make fun of people who are a bit different. Had Dinner for Schmucks decided to plump for just one of these opinions (either that it is fine to laugh at others, or that it is wrong), it may have been a better film.
Ultimately, however, Dinner for Schmucks showcases a range of comedic talent let down by a lacklustre script.