With one quite obvious exception, it is true to say that there are few things worse than an average comedy. Not only has the offending film shown the temerity to not be amazing, but it has also been put together with just enough expertise to prevent us from wallowing in it’s crapness. Both attributes will ultimately consign it to the supermarket shelf, where it will be passed over for much poorer – but much cheaper – options. (Tesco recently tricked me into paying £3 for Quantum of Solace..)
Dinner For Schmucks is such a movie. Punctuated with clever lines, ushered along by some good situation slapstick and boasting a supporting cast of high calibre, this is a screwball comedy that looks great on paper. Unfortunately, it was then committed to celluloid.
Paul Rudd and Steve Carell both come from excellent comedy stock, in fact they have appeared together in two of the most successful comedies of the last decade (40 Year Old Virgin & Anchorman) but without a strong lead (Anchorman) or brilliant script (both) they hit the buffers somewhat here. Rudd is great as a comedy vehicle but has little star quality of his own and although Steve Carell can make a better case for himself as the main event, but here he strains to make a pretty tiresome character funny and despite a great effort, largely fails. In truth neither are helped greatly by a bluntly pedestrian script which meanders far too often.
However to continue damning this film with faint praise would be harsh. A remake of the Francis Veber play The Dinner Game, Dinner For Schmucks is a half-decent comedy which won’t struggle to tickle most audiences. It’s not as outrageous or carefree as Get Him To The Greek, but then few things are. The movie centres around Tim a mid-level financial executive who hopes to gain a promotion by helping his boss tap into an eccentric Swiss millionaire’s bank account. Little Britain‘s David Walliams appears to be having a whale of time Mueller – a character apparently modelled upon the bloke who presented Eurotrash. (Don’t pretend you never watched it..)
But when Tim is invited to a company dinner where employees compete to see who can bring along the biggest loser, he struggles with both the problem of a suitable guest and the whole moral debate of it all. His uber-ethical and ultra-2D girlfriend doesn’t think he should go but when he bumps into a genuine schmuck in the form of Barry (Carell), he sees it as a sign that he should embrace this opportunity. Needless to say Barry soon ruins Tim’s life – cue a series of rather marginally funny set pieces.
Unfortunately some good ideas and a sparkling backing cast which includes Walliams, Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) are rather wasted by a pretty average leading pair and pretty unadventurous writing..