Screen Rant’s Paul Young reviews Dinner for Schmucks

After watching Dinner for Schmucks I slowly trudged out of the theater feeling as if every last ounce of happy-go-lucky spirit had been drained from my body. Dinner for Schmucks is one of those films where the concept may have looked great on paper but ultimately the execution was lseverly lacking. While watching this, I realized that just about every side character in the film is funnier than Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd, who are both actors I normally enjoy watching.

The basic plot is about Tim (Paul Rudd) who tries to ingratiate himself with the uppity-ups at his company – but to really seal the deal and get the promotion he wants so badly, he must attend a dinner at his bosses house and bring an idiot with him – the more colorful the better. The problem is Tim sort of has a conscience in the form of his girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak) but his need to continue paying for his Porsche and upscale apartment far outweigh any reluctance he may have about a stranger’s feelings. Besides, he tells Julie, “Where would I find someone colorful enough to take to the party?”

Lucy Davenport and David Walliams in a scene from 'Dinner for Schmucks'

Enter Barry (Steve Carrell) who has the unique talent of taxidermy and uses it to dress up dead mice in outfits and arrange them in scenes around his house. Some of the stuff he creates is ridiculously awesome and if it weren’t for the fact that all the models were made out of dead rodents, I would probably buy some of his art. After a chance encounter between Tim’s bumper and Barry’s body, Tim realizes what an “idiot” he has found and invites him to dinner. Barry immediately confuses the dates and shows up a day early and after a ridiculous series of events where he basically ruins Tim’s relationship, career, car apartment and life – Tim sees the error of his ways and the two become close friends.

Writers David Guion and Michael Handelman, as well as director Jay Roach, must have had a really rough life growing up because Dinner for Schmucks felt like it was written by a group of nerds who were mistreated in high school and now want to teach the “jocks” (or whoever their frustration is aimed at) a life lesson. But instead of a story where the bigshots get their comeuppance, it comes across like the writers spent almost two hours making fun of Barry and people like him, who march to the beat of a different drum. If anything, Barry and this merry band of social misfits should have been the highlight of the movie and not the butt of its lame, uninspired jokes.

While they don’t come right out and say Barry is Autistic, certain key personality traits of his are just too similar to the disorder to be ignored. Barry has no sense of the social ramifications of his actions, he doesn’t pick up on others’ social cues nor does he feel any awkwardness when talking about issues that would clearly be awkward to discuss, (i.e. his boss stealing his wife, not being able to please his wife in bed, telling people he has a sexually transmitted disease).

There’s nothing wrong with Barry being Autistic but I don’t really find myself wanting to laugh at people with Autism. Carrell does his best to provide as many laughs as possible but after the first 30 minutes most of the jokes and sight gags fall flat while others made me cringe at their predictability.

Here is what was good about the film: Zach Galifianakis as the mind controlling boss, Jemaine Clement as the sexually narcissistic artist, Lucy Punch as the rabbit boiling stalker ex-one night stand girl, Jeff Dunham as the man married to a dummy on his arm, Octavia Spencer as the psychic who speaks to dead animals and Chris O’Dowd who literally steals every scene he is in as the blind swordsman who wants to compete in the Olympic Games.

Every single one of those characters are worth watching, it’s just too bad you have to sit through the rest of the film to see them. The film has a few belly laugh areas in it but honestly if it weren’t for the people I named above this movie would get even less than 1.5 stars.

This is a buddy movie where the “buddies” spend almost the entire film not being buddies and really no one cares if they ever become buddies.

The movie is called Dinner for Schmucks yet the only schmucks I see are the people who are fooled into actually paying to watch it in theaters.

Our Rating:


1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)