Sorry for the subtitle to this review, but everyone’s been doing their best to play around with the fact that ‘schmuck’ rhymes with, and is indeed only a few letters away from, the word ‘fuck’, and I’m nothing if not unoriginal.
Dinner for Schmucks is a vehicle for what appears to be Paul Rudd’s new sallow-faced robotic stand-in and America’s perpetual clown Steve Carell. Ten years ago it might have been Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey in these roles, but the result we get today is just as bland and faintly depressing as that pairing could have been, which makes this the comedy equivalent of a cold bowl of porridge sitting next to the receipt for a dead man’s last MOT.
Rudd’s character, let’s call him Paul Rudd, works for a private equity firm, and Carell’s jester creates oddly compelling dioramas with dead mice. To get a big promotion and secure a rich Swiss client Rudd must join his paymasters at a dinner to which he is required to invite one socially inept idiot, and after running down the child-like Carell in his Porsche he thinks he’s found his man. Rudd’s art curator girlfriend isn’t happy with his decision to sell out his moral values just to get a bit more money, and she flees to stay with the narcissistic artist Kieran, played by Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement.
Dinner for Schmucks is a bit like a bad cartoon mixed with a sort of half-dead romantic comedy. The jokes are thin on the ground, with the laughs reliant on your enjoyment of Carell’s silly delivery of lines and creepy behaviour. Rudd just looks like he wants to throw himself in front of a bus even when things are going well, and the supporting cast made up of Brits, including David Walliams and The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd, don’t really get a chance to do anything more than put on stupid accents. Zach Galifianakis proves that he can play a weirdo with aplomb once more, and he definitely steals the show, but it’s not enough to reanimate this lumbering zombie of a comedy.
Check out the French film that inspired this. It’s good. So I hear.