Friday, 3 September 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Tim Conrad is looking to get ahead at his financial company, and so strikes up a potential deal with a wealthy Swiss businessman. As a result of his ingenuity, Tim's boss invites him to a special "dinner for winners" where he must bring a 'special' guest. However, Tim soon learns it is more of a "dinner for idiots" where the special guests will be mocked relentlessly. As he wonders who he could possibly bring, he literally runs into Barry Speck, an IRS employee and part-time mouse taxidermist. Chaos soon ensues as Tim tries to balance his relationship with a curator and the eccentric artist lusting after her, his stalker, his work colleagues and the special guest who's quickly entered his life...

Dinner for Schmucks. Certainly a less offensive title than the translation of the original French title, Le Dîner de cons (literally 'The Dinner of C***s' or 'The Dinner of Idiots') but definitely more marketable and poster friendly. I will not come here and say I've seen Le Dîner de cons and found it be a highly amusing charade. I will say that after seeing this, I'm more open to finding and watching the original French version because I can only hope that it contains more laughs than this version. There must have been a reason why they chose to remake this film, there must have been, because why on Earth would you choose to put millions of dollars into remaking a comedy with little to no laughs in it? I was, to say the least, disappointed. There may have been more laughs in this, but the extensive trailers and TV spots gave away some of the film's biggest laughs so there were only a handful of original laughs to be had.

In all honestly, I can only remember laughing twice. Admittedly, those two laughs were pretty hearty laughs, but in a film that's nearly two hours, that's wholly unacceptable. I didn't even laugh once for the first hour. When you spend 60 minutes not laughing at a supposed comedy film, you know you're in trouble. It's not physical enough to be a slapstick comedy. It's not stupid enough to be a screwball comedy. It's barely anything really, an hour and a half of relationship building and character intros to lead up to the aforementioned "dinner for winners". It's one of the best parts of the film, it's somewhat entertaining with a few laughs. I credit the dinner being funny due to the cameos: Jeff Dunham (Seen Achmed the Dead Terrorist? Him, the puppet guy!) appears as a man married to the ventriloquist's dummy attached to his arm and Chris O'Dowd (Seen The IT Crowd? Him, the Irish guy!) appears as a blind fencer. Dunham's good at what he does, as displayed in numerous YouTube videos, and O'Dowd plays a somewhat stupidly-premised role straight as an arrow.

Paul Rudd is in autopilot here, playing pretty much the same guy he played in I Love You, Man and Role Models. Steve Carell plays an alternative version of Brick Tamland, less 'retarded' and more 'idiotic'. Likeable but not a classic character. Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords) plays an eccentric artist who is every pretentious artist stereotype from every comedy film from the last 30 years, though that's not to say he doesn't play it well, we've just seen it before. David Walliams makes a, frankly, baffling appearance as a wealthy Swiss businessman with an accent as dodgy as the tan he sports. Ron Livingstone is horribly misplaced as Tim's competitor to win the dinner. Zach Galifianakis plays the Zach Galifianakis role only stupider. Above it all though, I was impressed by one person. Lucy Punch. Name means nothing? She was Eve Draper in Hot Fuzz, Holly Ellenbogen from The Class and, most recently, Kate Bishop in BBC Two's comedy-drama Vexed. This is a bright young actress who's getting attention on both sides of the Atlantic and can certainly make it, she can turn from extremely British in Vexed to convincingly American in Dinner for Schmucks, and she turns in probably the most memorable performance of the film as Tim's stalker Darla. Yeah, it's the same stalker cliche we've seen films for years and years (a testament to the film's adamant unoriginality) but she still carries it off damn well.

To be honest, I don't really want to dwell on this film more than I already have, so here it is. Overall, it's just not funny. It has all the right people in it, but a dire script and lack of jokes severely lets it down. This'll be in the bargain bin before too long, it certainly won't live long in the memory, or at least I hope not on behalf of all the people who have and will see it. The only laugh you'll get from this is how laughably unfunny it is for a supposed comedy. I can only guess that the laughs were lost in translation.

Rating: *