Director: Jay Roach Release date: 20/08/10 Link: IMDB With the comedic dream duo of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd at the helm, one might be inclined to think Dinner for Schmucks could go down as one of the most hysterical films of the past few years. Well, think again. Don’t get me wrong, Dinner for Schmucks is certainly entertaining at times and it does generate a sufficient amount of laughs, but you can’t help but feel it should’ve been a lot better, especially when you consider all of the insanely funny actors who were involved with the project. But honestly, it’s hard to be critical of Carell, Rudd or the many performers who provide supporting roles — Zach Galifianakis ( The Hangover), Jemaine Clement (HBO’s Flight of the Conchords), Ron Livingston ( Office Space) and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham — because they do the best they can with the material they are given. Instead, the lion’s share of the blame should go to David Guion and Michael Handelman’s screenplay, which recurrently fails to maintain any semblance of a comedic rhythm. Sure, you are going to find yourself bursting with laughter on numerous occasions, but there are stretches in director Jay Roach’s motion picture (especially in the second act) when the humour loses its footing and falls flat on its face. And that’s tremendously disappointing given the fact that the premise of the film — a wealthy businessman holds a dinner every month where each guest must bring the biggest idiot they can find — had so much potential. But sadly, there are a number of times when the film either tries too hard to be funny or depends way too much on jokes that put the characters in painfully awkward or embarrassing situations, which, as you know, doesn’t always make for great comedy. But if there is anything that saves Dinner for Schmucks from mediocrity, it’s the prodigious rapport between Carell and Rudd (they also collaborated together on Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who are able to convincingly portray the same kind of love/hate relationship that Steve Martin and John Candy shared so perfectly in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Rudd plays Tim Conrad, a low-level financial analyst at a private equity firm who is madly in love with his girlfriend, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), an up-and-coming curator who is working with a self-absorbed artist named Kieran (Clement). Tim desperately wants to get a promotion so he can provide for the woman who will one day be his wife (hopefully), and he assumes that day has come when he makes a bold suggestion that catches the attention of his boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood). But before Tim can take the leap upstairs, he must bring the biggest schmuck to his superior’s dinner party and win the mean and nasty competition. Julie, of course, chastises the idea, and even Tim himself thinks it’s messed up. But Tim, who is desperate beyond belief, believes everything happens for a reason, and that motto makes it impossible for him to resist the opportunity when he literally runs into Barry Speck (Carell), a lonely and eccentric IRS agent who spends most of his free time creating dioramas with taxidermied mice. (The film’s opening scene that shows Barry’s largest “mouseterpiece” in great detail is both unbelievably impressive and downright hilarious.) But when Barry gladly accepts the invitation Tim gets more than he bargained for. Barry latches onto his new “best friend” like a leech, and the prospect of no longer having to live in solitary gets him so excited he shows up at Tim’s apartment a day early. The tornado of destruction that is Barry surely means well, but every one of his actions leads to even more devastating hardships for Tim, and eventually his relationship with Julie, his job and his well-being are all put at risk. The entire setup of Dinner for Schmucks is amusing in a peculiar way, but once the film shifts its focus primarily on Barry and all the things he does to potentially ruin Tim’s life, the material becomes a little too redundant. (That is, except for any scene that includes Galifianakis as Therman, a goofy and sharp-dressed mind reader.) I really don’t find a whole lot of satisfaction in watching people being afflicted with misery, and it gets a bit tiresome when Tim is continually being thrown through the ringer. These moments are really designed more to make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat than laugh. But right when it gets to the point where you might think all hope is lost, the dinner for schmucks comes along and the film is invigorated with the same kind of playful and ridiculous comedy that made the first 30 minutes so enjoyable. I’m not going to write anything more about the dinner because revealing too much would spoil all of the fun, but the one thing I will say is get ready to witness some of the most bizarre personalities to have ever graced a movie screen. It’s just too bad you have to sit through a less than appetizing main course before you get to sink your teeth into the mouth-watering dessert. Photobucket