DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS By Gary Murray Starring Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman Directed by Jay Roach Running time 105 min MPAA Rating PG-13 Selig Film Rating Matinee Steve Carell has been building his comedy career since The Daily Show. He and Steven Colbert were the glue that kept the Jon Stewart helmed show on the cutting edge. With The Office, he has cemented his place in television industry. Lately, Steve has taken roles in different kinds of film, winning critical reviews and major box office. His latest is the wild comedy Dinner for Schmucks. Based on Francis Veber's The Dinner Game (Le diner de cons), the film opens with Paul Rudd as Tim, a guy on the sixth floor of an investment company who wants to be on the seventh floor, upper management. When an opportunity arises Tim shows that he has the 'thinking outside of the box' skills to impress his boss. Before being officially offered the job, he must come to a secret dinner. At this feast, every member of the upper management must bring a idiot, a person that they can all make fun of during the meal. When Tim tells his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) about the dinner, she is appalled and doesn't want him to have anything to do with it. She's an gallery representative who is showing Kieran (Jemaine Clement) a photographer/painter who uses himself as the basic subject matter. He is a person who could easily have been a part of the dinner. Tim unsuccessfully explains to Julie that there are two Tims, one that they love and one that does anything to get ahead. The next morning as Tim is driving to work, he literally runs into Barry as Barry runs into the street. Barry is trying to save a rodent carcass for his taxidermy artworks. The pieces are based on famous paintings, personalities and events, all done with appropriate costumes and backgrounds. They are brilliant works of art. Barry gives Tim the centerpiece of his latest creation, The Last Supper. Holding the tiny rodent Jesus, Tim realizes that Barry is the perfect idiot for the dinner and asks him to the event because 'everything happens for a reason'. The rest of the film is the next 48 hours and a tornado of destruction that is Barry. Tim is asked by his big boss to have a Saturday lunch date with the newest prospective client. Barry shows up at Tim's apartment a day early, much to the chagrin of Julie. When Julie realizes what Tim is up to, she leaves. Barry sees infidelity in the situation, which drives an encounter with an old one night stand Darla (Lucky Punch). Events steer Barry and Tim to see Barry's boss Therman (Zach Galifianakis) an IRS agent and part-time mentalist. All the events lead to our Dinner for Schmucks and a collection of some of the weirdest dinner guests ever assembled on screen. The amazing thing about the script is that even the throw-away lines uttered by different minor cast members get laughs. The film is directed my maverick Jay Roach, the guy who gave us both Austin Powers and Meet the Parents, both huge successes with millions of fans. This film should follow a similar path. While he knows how to get great performances from his stellar comedy cast, he never seems to build the laughter up in Dinner. Funny moments follow funny moments, but they are just there and never reach a stunning climax. The pacing just isn't what he has delivered before. On the positive side, the acting could not have been better. Steve Carell just nails Barry, the IRS agent who may be a dweeb but has a mountain of sorrow on his small shoulders. He knows that he's not the coolest guy on the block but it doesn't bother him. He just lives the life he wants to. Paul Rudd gets a moment here and there to lay down some laughs but his job is more of the straight man, being the only sane person in the asylum. Both Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Celment steal just about every scene they are in but the biggest praises have to go to Lucy Punch as the dumped upon gal. She just roars in this boys club of comics, getting a great reaction as the crazed lover. Stephanie Szostak is just there to be pretty and is given so little to do other than be the object of desire. While not on the level as the first two Austin Powers films, it is heads above all the Meet The Parents flicks. It finds a solid balance between slapstick and farce without ever going overboard on either side. Dinner for Schmucks is not one of the best films of the year but it is one of the most solid comedies of the summer.

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