Dinner for Schmucks: A hit and a miss for Rudd and Carell

Lead actors Paul Rudd and Steve Carell have both established themselves as kings of buddy comedies, and audiences may be led by their names alone, into thinking that this will be a laugh out loud affair. But I’m not too sure if any of these guys did themselves any favors by signing on for this weird over-the-top flick.

Rudd stars as Tim, a low level analyst at a financial holdings firm, who has his heart set on landing an office in the top floor and marrying the girl of his dreams, art curator Julie. He finally musters up the nerve to step up and pitch his $100 million idea to the bosses, who in turn, tests him and asks him to a special dinner wherein everyone is tasked to bring an idiot to make fun of them. Tim tells Julie and they both decide that Tim will not be a part of the cruelty. Enter Barry, a guy Tim accidentally hits with his shiny new Porche. Barry is a weirdo who stuffs dead mice to make them into dioramas of his former life with his ex-wife. The same wife, who’s been stolen from him by his super weirdo boss at his day job, Therman Murch(Zack Galifianakis) who gets a kick out of “controlling Barry’s mind.” Anyway, Tim invites Barry to the dinner despite the strong objections of Julie. They get in a fight and Barry shows up to set into motion a series of mishaps that will either make you laugh out loud or tear off your hair in frustration. It was the latter for me.

Are we having fun yet?
While I appreciate a good slapstick and some toilet humor, Steve Carell’s character Barry grated on my nerves from the get go. I didn’t find him funny at all. The way he looked was annoying, his mannerisms were annoying, his naivete was annoying. He was a catastrophe in the likes of Sandra Bullock’s Mary Horowitz in All About Steve but I liked Mary, unlike Barry. Barry always tried to “help out” and pretend he knew better and led Tim into having suspicions about Julie, giving away Tim’s address to the stalker he’s been avoiding for years, and getting Tim in trouble with Julie and the investors, all in the space of 24 hours. The only real moments I related to his character was when he revealed what happened to his ex-wife, and when he showed up to dinner for Tim to show off his collection of mice art. I actually found Kieran, the narcissistic cliche artist who wanted to steal Julie away from Tim, just the right parts funny, weird and dumb so he was a definite plus to the movie. Paul Rudd didn’t do much, just let things happen to him. His character here is pretty similar to the one he played in I Love You Man, but the relationship between the two leads worked out for that movie because they interacted a lot and did the funny bits together. In DFS, Steve was the one pulling off the stops while Paul wasted his comedic skills with a lot of head shaking, head scratching and disapproving glares, not that any of it was his fault because that was the way the character was written. Galifianakis’s Therman had his moments but was equally annoying, in my opinion.

There were also some funny moments, as were poignant and emotional scenes between the two friends towards the end of the movie. And of course, leave us not forget the moral lesson of the story, which is not to judge people who do not follow the norm. The plot isn’t exactly rocket science, so the happy ending is just waiting around the corner for its cue. I’m still a fan of Rudd and Carell even after this fiasco. After all, you can’t win ’em all. I’m sure they’ll redeem themselves in their next movie.

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