Sexual Jokes Coarsen Dinner for Schmucks
- Friday, July 30, 2010
DVD Release Date: January 4, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: July 30, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language)
Run Time: 110 min.
Director: Jay Roach
Actors: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Bruce Greenwood, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Ron Livingston
NBC recently confirmed that, after a long run, Steve Carell is officially leaving The Office, the sitcom on which he plays clueless boss Michael Scott. Maybe he's grown tired of the role—or maybe the movies are beckoning.
Carell, who broke out of supporting roles in 2005 with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, survived Evan Almighty and Dan in Real Life, and has hit his stride this year with Date Night, Despicable Me and now Dinner for Schmucks. This latest film, a remake of the French farce The Dinner Game, expands on the original in many ways that improve the story, but it adds a heavy dose of sexual content that prevents the film from being easily recommendable.
Tim (Paul Rudd), an aspiring executive at a finance firm, has devised a scheme to land the account of a deep-pocketed art lover (David Walliams). Tim sees a ticket to the top of the company hierarchy if he can bring in the big fish. Trouble is, his boss (Bruce Greenwood) doesn't want to use an unproven junior-level employee like Tim to woo the new client.
Sensing that Tim has drive and passion, the boss gives him a chance to show what he's made of by attending a "dinner for idiots." The game involves bringing an unsuspecting idiot to a dinner so that others can laugh at their expense. The person who brings the biggest idiot receives a prize—in Tim's case, the long sought-after promotion.
His girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), doesn't approve of the plan, and neither does Tim at first. But when he meets IRS employee Barry (Carell), he can't help himself. Barry's specialty is taxidermy with an unusual twist: He assembles dioramas featuring stuffed, dead mice dressed in small outfits, and he couldn't be prouder of his creations. With Barry at his side, Tim smells dinner-party victory, and with it professional advancement, even though his commitment to following through endangers his relationship with Julie.
The relationship between Tim and Barry is central to Dinner for Schmucks, but a variety of supporting performances pushes the envelope in the area of sexuality in the film. A performance artist (Jemaine Clement) who works with Julie stands waiting to take Tim's place in her life, and he's quite open with Tim about a potential romantic relationship with Julie. Meanwhile, Barry worsens the damage for Tim by inadvertently inviting Darla (Lucy Punch), a deranged former flame of Tim's, back into his life. Her aggressive sexual suggestiveness and desperate, do-anything overtures to get Tim's attention are more outrageous than humorous, testing the limits of what audiences will be comfortable with in Dinner for Schmucks. Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover) plays Barry's boss, the man who stole Barry's wife and who can control Barry through a form of mind control that only he and Barry seem to understand.
Those mind games are among several bizarre, funny episodes that occur during the climactic dinner event, which wasn't included in The Dinner Game. The unwitting contestants at the dinner include a blind swordsman, a woman who communicates with dead animals, and a strange ventriloquist. Until the dinner scene, the film's humor is mostly gentle and rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but the dinner displays of eccentricity take Dinner for Schmucks to a higher level.
Another departure in the American version is its protagonist, Tim, who is much more sympathetic than his counterpart in the French version. Writers David Guion and Michael Handelman give Tim a chance to recognize his flaws and change his ways. This makes for a sweeter experience in terms of the two main characters and gives the film a redemptive element. However, the sexual jokes and stalker subplot push limits that the original didn't approach.
Those who want to avoid the coarse aspects of Dinner for Schmucks should track down a copy of The Dinner Game instead. It's the safer option, although that film doesn't include the dinner sequence of the American version, which includes moments that are funnier than anything in the original.
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