A dash of creativity and Rudd, Carrell improve “Dinner’s” flavor
Steve Carrell (“Dan in Real Life”) and Paul Rudd (“I Love You, Man”) are two of film’s finest comic actors right now, so any film featuring them both ought to be funny. The only questions are how consistently will the laughs come and how hard will they be? Their latest, “Dinner for Schmucks,” is creative and allows the comic duo’s skills to flourish, and a talented supporting cast to thrive.
The comedy here isn’t highbrow and it is pretty silly at times, and it is easy to see audiences hoping for a more subversive tone given the plot. But there is a gentle, unforced nature to Carrell and Rudd’s chemistry that makes “Dinner for Schmucks” an offbeat if uneven diversion.
Tim (Rudd) is trying to move up the chain at a private equity firm and feels compelled to attend a dinner hosted by his snarky boss (Bruce Greenwood). The catch is that the dinner is really a competition to see who can bring to the table the most idiotic guest, and in doing so impress the boss. When Tim runs into (literally) Barry, (Carrell) an IRS employee with a winning grin and a most unusual hobby involving dioramas with dead mice, it appears the perfect guest has been discovered.
As socially inept as he is clueless, Barry begins to enmesh himself into Tim’s life, causing a rift with his girlfriend, art broker Julie (Stephanie Szostak), who proves a lisp can be alluring so long as it comes paired with a French accent.
As expected, the harder Tim tries to keep Barry out of his life, the more the lovable imbecilic Barry keeps popping up. Although he is irritating, Barry is well intentioned and at times quite amusing.
Take out the music, and this is the schtick that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis used to pull off with aplomb decades ago.
Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) has a bizarre but interesting cameo, and Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”) has a bit part that earns a few laughs. “Dinner for Schmuks” is one film whose preview trailer does justice to its product. You will catch the essence of the shenanigans offered here, and if the tone appears to up your alley, by all means, enjoy. For others, it is likely better suited to a rainy day rental that occasionally surprises while falling short of sustained inspiration.
PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language