Dinner for Schmucks
Dinner for Schmucks is memorable if only for its amazing ability to waste talent; high-profile, honorable, comedic talent. It seems that more and more these valuable resources are squandered in mediocre films either spouting inane comments or filling in as human wallpaper.
Of the cast only Carell enjoys his role, playing Barry, a man blissfully ignorant of the world around him, content to create macabre mouse dioramas forever. Suffice it to say, he is the schmuck in question. He is also the only one to garner any laughs; goofy, broad, over-the-the-top humor delivered in machine gun style, but at least it chops up the monotony of Rudd’s dull soul-searching relationship plot.
At this point Rudd’s and Galifianakis’s deliveries and wit seem overplayed. We get it: Rudd is sardonic and sarcastic until something happens and he learns his lesson; and Galifianakis is the guy you cast because everyone loved him in The Hangover and he’s overweight and has a beard – ipso facto, comedy should flow out of him like sweat. Outside of Flight of Conchords, Jemaine Clement (stereotypically creepy artist Kieran) never seems to hit the same high notes. Here he exhibits the precise low-energy deliveries and quirks that make him delightful when paired with his music and comedy partner, but in Schmucks his character is hollow, one-dimensional, and lacking a boisterous foil to bounce quips off of. The closest he gets is Rudd, a veritable black hole of energy.
The movie could have been saved if the focus were re-oriented on the dinner. An amazing concept, I know, but someone had to come up with it. While the original never followed through on its promise of a dinner, the remake desperately needs it.
The dinner provides the perfect setting and set-up for everything to come together. To see the schmucks, goofs, and weirdos at the top of their game contrasted against the highbrow businessmen is the payoff; the exuberant dessert to top off a filling meal. The assembled comedians and actors could be free to do what they wish, unencumbered, basking in the opportunity to take everything to the edge. Instead we get a few short introductions of each schmuck, one or two lines apiece, and then a shameful display of how Carell is not only a schmuck but also an idiot.
Bright spots include the dinner table fight between Carell and Galifianakis (which is mostly shown in the trailer) and a few choice words and outfits by Clement. For all the heavy hitters and script punch-up men included, it is rather depressing Dinner was so lifeless.