A friend had free passes to see this movie, and while I did not intend to see this film in theaters at all, you can't argue with free. I went in with the hope that it might be this summer's The Hangover (which I found to be a pretty funny, although not a great film) or even I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd is simply a likable actor, the kind of guy you have in your circle of friends, likely to be your best friend. That's the kind of vibe he puts out with many of his film role choices, lately. Pairing him with Steve Carell just seemed like a good idea. They were in The 40 Year Old Virgin together, where Paul Rudd played...you guessed it...one of the best friends a 40-year old virgin guy could have to help him through his "crisis."
Yes, there was hope that these two actors together could pull it off. I didn't expect much of the film Role Models (also starring Paul Rudd, along with Seann William Scott), but that film was surprisingly funny and heartwarming. Not so with Dinner With Schmucks. I walked out of the theater feeling like I lost major IQ points. It was awful, awful, awful.
The movie is based on a French farcical comedy, though I've never seen it so I don't know if the French original would be just as bad. The premise is almost vulgar: in order to please his boss for the much hoped for promotion, Tim (played by Paul) is invited to a special dinner party at the boss's castle...er, house. The catch is that everyone must bring a special guest. The guest must be idiotic, because these corporate execs love laughing at other people. Whoever brings the most idiotic guest wins. We're assuming, a promotion. Well, if I was invited to such a dinner party, my guest would either be George W. Bush or Sarah Palin, the two biggest idiots I can think of. We'd have pretty good laughs at their expense.
Tim meets his idiot in a car accident, Barry, who is an IRS agent with a taxidermy hobby (the most interesting thing about the film are the taxidermed mice used as models in famous paintings and diorama scenes). Steve Carell seems to be channeling his inner Dumb and Dumber, with the hope of joining Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels for a threequel of dumb! Despite the title, we don't actually get to the dinner party until late in the movie (the third act). In the meantime, the film goes off on a series of mishaps that continue to get worse for Tim as the night wears on. I started losing interest in the film early on, when an old booty call of Tim shows up and just acts outrageous. While I seemed to be in a theater full of hyenas, I actually thought the scenes were unfunny. Or the kind of funny that fratboy jocks are likely to enjoy.
All the characters are outlandish. Paul Rudd and his way cute French girlfriend are the only normal characters in the entire movie. I understand that comedies thrive on quirky secondary characters, but this film was getting ridiculous. Each scene progressed worse than the one before. Besides the freaky and obsessed floozy who thinks she still has a chance with Tim, there's an incredibly strange and narcissistic artist who calls some freaky theatrical style sex play his "process" (dressing up as Pan and prancing around in a "wooded scene" in his barn); the crazy guy from The Hangover playing a loser IRS guy who has special mental powers over underling Barry; an obscenely wealthy Eurotrash couple that Tim is trying to bring on board to the financial investment firm he works for; and of course, the dinner party guests. There's a blind guy who thinks he knows the art of fencing. There's another guy with a buzzard. One guy has a ventriloquist doll of some creepy looking lady that he refers to as his wife. And there's a lady who can speak to the spirits of animals that have passed over. She was one of the few moments that actually made me laugh out loud: when she mimicked the feelings of a lobster being boiled to death (which happens to be the special dinner that evening).
One of the difficulties for me in achieving a "suspension of disbelief" is that Barry is an inconsistent idiot. His character didn't ring true for me. At least in a movie like Dumb and Dumber, you got that the two guys were idiots (the fact that they turned down a bunch of Swedish ladies at the end of the movie perfectly captured their level of stupidity). In a film like this, though, Barry showed flashes of genius even during some of the zany disasterous moments. He also displays some level of sweetness, but the audience never gets to grasp what kind of idiot he is exactly. Forrest Gump had a more consistent characteristic in his idiot. My impression is that Barry was not developed very well in the script and Steve Carell played the difficult balance between conveying that his character was somewhat of an idiot alongside being merely a quirky guy who happens to need a good friend. Boom, another "bromantic comedy" is born!
Ultimately, though, I left the theater looking like Paul Rudd in the poster above. I just wasted a couple hours of my time. There is a moral to the story, but the "apostheosis" simply does not deliver. My friend said it best when she wondered who wrote the script. Chances are, the script wasn't well thought out. As a public service to my blog readers...I'll save you time and money: Don't be a schmuck. Save your bucks. This movie SUCKS!
Leaving the theater, I felt like the joke was on the audience. By paying money to see this film, studio execs in Hollywood who greenlighted this picture will be laughing at YOU in their fancy dinner parties. I hope this film bombs at the box office. Its the opposite of Inception. That film engages your mind and forces you to think on many levels. This one insults your intelligence and doesn't even make you laugh all that much. I'd venture to say that the only people laughing at this ridiculous movie in the theaters are probably idiots themselves. The movie simply isn't all that funny. I'd rather watch The Hangover again and get my laughs that way.