Spoilers for Dinner For Schmucks. But what do you care? You haven’t seen it. Most people haven’t. It got horrible reviews.
Dinner For Schmucks stars Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Bruce Greenwood, Lucy Punch, David Walliams, Ron Livingston, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal, Andrea Savage, Nick Kroll, Randall Park, Chris O’Dowd, and Octavia Spencer. This movie is yet another example of an insane cast being wasted. As I was watching this, I was trying to figure out how a movie could be really funny in some moments but also bad and hard to watch at the same time. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve experienced a few times. So I went on IMDb to see who made this movie, and everything clicked into place.
The Director, Jay Roach, is known for directing the two most beloved movie trilogies of all time: Austin Powers and Meet the Parents. I haven’t seen any of the Austin Powers movies, but Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, and Little Fockers are all incredibly cringey, repetitive, and hard to watch. There’s always some big misunderstanding between Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro that causes De Niro to do something mean to Ben Stiller. So the family is mad at De Niro for a few minutes until he figures out how to make Stiller seem like the bad guy. Then everyone gets mad at Ben Stiller even though he didn’t really do anything other than whine a lot. And while all of that is going on, Owen Wilson flirts with Ben Stiller’s girlfriend a bunch. That’s the plot of all three of those movies, and this one isn’t much different. It’s just Meet the Parents with weirdos. There’s even an Owen Wilson character in this. Owen Wilson isn’t in this, obviously, but there’s a character that does things similar to what the Owen Wilson Meet the Parents character does. You get it. Anyway, let’s get into it.
The movie opens with a man offscreen putting together this picturesque model of a couple falling in love and enjoying their life together, using dead mice in little clothes and everything. We don’t see who is building these models, but I was pretty sure it was Steve Carell. This is one of the scenes that makes the movie seem better than the sum of its parts, because it’s oddly beautiful while also vaguely creepy. It’s like watching a Wes Anderson movie being put together. When I watched this, I was like “There’s no way that this movie is as bad as people say. This is very charming.” And I was half right.
The intro ends and we witness a man quickly vacating a large building while being watched by Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, and his assistant, who is played by the wonderful Kristen Schaal. We learn that Paul Rudd is playing Tim, a businessman desperate to work his way up the corporate chain. I don’t really remember what his firm does, but they aren’t good people. So Paul Rudd goes into this big meeting with a weird homemade lamp that everyone mocks until he reveals that he’s used this “piece of art” he made to lure a foreign businessman with a lot of money. It’s kind of fun to watch this scene, because the corporate stooge Paul Rudd shows up with his presentation is played by the great Randall Park. And he’s funny in everything he does.
After the meeting, Paul Rudd is asked to meet the boss in the office of the guy that just got fired. The boss(Bruce Greenwood) tells Paul that he can have the guy’s job, but he has to prove himself at a special dinner. He’s informed by Bruce’s right and left-hand men(Ron Livingston and Larry Wilmore) that he has to bring a weirdo to the dinner. He obviously hates the idea, because it’s gross. So he decides that he’s going to figure out how to avoid it.
Later that night he meets his French girlfriend at an art installation that she helped curate with this big-time artist named Kieran. And this is when this movie gets a lot better for a brief amount of time. Because Kieran is played by one of my favorite actors of all time, the incredible and god-like Jemaine Clement. Jemaine Clement is one of the most effortlessly funny people currently living, and he can do literally anything. He can play a down on his luck musician(Flight of the Conchords), a wacky mutant scientist(Legion), an insane artist(Dinner For Schmucks), a vampire that’s been alive for centuries(What We Do In The Shadows), or a weird singing crab(Moana). And he pulls it off every time. He’s a fantastic musician as well, and he’s obviously not afraid to look as ridiculous as possible:
He’s in maybe three or four scenes throughout the movie, but he definitely saved me from my boredom. Anyway, he really wants to have sex with Paul Rudd’s girlfriend Julie(Stephanie Szostak), and acts as a much more eccentric version of the Owen Wilson’s character in the Meet the Parents movies. The next day, on the way to work, Paul Rudd isn’t paying attention to the road and accidentally hits Barry(Steve Carell) with his car. Steve Carell misunderstands the situation and thinks that he needs to pay Paul Rudd, and is thrilled when Paul Rudd says he doesn’t want money from him. When he sees the dead mice that Steve Carell is carrying with him, Paul Rudd invites him to the dinner immediately.
The next hour of the movie isn’t interesting or funny, so I’ll try to cover it quickly. Paul Rudd goes to work and sees the rich guy he helped the company court and weasels his way into meeting the guy for lunch the next day to negotiate him becoming a client. Ron Livingston doesn’t like this. The guy says that Paul Rudd should bring Julie with. That night, Julie sees the dead mouse in Paul Rudd’s jacket and assumes that Paul Rudd decided to go to the dinner. She then storms out. Steve Carell shows up shortly after, insisting the dinner is tonight. The two of them break into Kieran’s apartment, assuming she has decided to cheat on him. She isn’t there, but Jemaine Clement has a chance to act weird. Paul Rudd throws his bad back out and Steve Carell helps him get his back brace on back at Paul Rudd’s apartment. While Paul Rudd tries to fix his back, Steve Carell chats with a woman named Darla on Paul Rudd’s computer and tells her Paul Rudd’s address. Paul Rudd sees this and yells at Steve Carell, because Darla(Lucy Punch) is Paul Rudd’s stalker. Paul Rudd kicks Steve Carell out just as Julie walks toward the door. Steve Carell mistakes her for Darla and tells her to stop her obsession with Paul Rudd, leading Julie to believe she is being cheated on. Darla soon shows up for real and destroys Paul Rudd’s apartment. Paul Rudd tries to call Julie, who doesn’t believe him.
After Darla leaves, Steve Carell brings Paul Rudd to his office. I think he works for the IRS or something. There they meet Therman(Zach Galifianakis), who is Steve Carell’s boss. He is also dating Steve Carell’s ex-wife. They ask him for the location of Kieran’s ranch, so they can go find Julie. Therman refuses to give the location unless Steve Carell admits that his wife doesn’t love him or something. Steve Carell refuses, and Therman decides to audit Paul Rudd. Thus far Steve Carell, who should be a sweet character in theory, has been portrayed as so comically inept and unaware of social concepts in a way that no living being has ever been. He has messed up Paul Rudd’s back, gotten him dumped by the love of his life. His apartment has been destroyed by his stalker, and he is now being audited by the IRS. So naturally he sleeps over at Paul Rudd’s apartment. The next day Paul rushes to his lunch date with the client and insists that Steve Carell stay put. But then he realizes that Julie needs to be at the lunch and shows up at the lunch with Darla, who is pretending to be Julie. Darla forces Paul Rudd to propose to her in front of everyone, at which point the real Julie shows up because Kristen Schaal called her and said Paul Rudd needed her. At the end of the lunch Steve Carell calls Therman and gets the address. They meet Julie at the ranch and Paul Rudd tries to apologize. She understands it was all a misunderstanding, but doesn’t like his callous and completely deserved dismissal of Steve Carell, which Steve Carell himself overhears. Steve Carell gets sad and returns to his apartment, leaving Paul Rudd to attend the dinner by himself. I know this is a very tedious recap, but trust me, the movie is worse.
Paul Rudd gets to the dinner and is surprised that Steve Carell is there. The movie again gets slightly better from here. Chris O’Dowd plays a funny blind man and Octavia Spencer cameos as an animal psychic. There’s a ventriloquist as well. Ron Livingston shows up with Therman, and Paul Rudd inspires Steve Carell to break overcome his fear of him. Steve Carell shows off a bunch of events throughout history told through dead mice displays, and it seems like Paul Rudd is going to win for having the “biggest idiot” until he reveals to all the other “schmucks” what is going on out of disgust. The night devolves into chaos and Bruce Greenwood’s house is set on fire, leaving Paul Rudd with no job. And him and Steve Carell go back to Paul Rudd’s apartment, where he talks about how much he loves Julie. Luckily Julie is there and they end up together. I think there’s some happy ending crap in there told through mice displays, but who cares, the movie is over.
It’s sad that this movie isn’t good, because the cast is full of amazing comedians. But I’m kind of glad it isn’t good. If it succeeded then we would be getting a lot more “misunderstanding comedies”. There are so many of these, where a weird character shows up and ruins the life of a straight man character, only to make it sort of better in the end. And it’s a bad trope because the weird character is usually played as mentally impaired in some insulting way. And we can’t really root for either of the main characters. Paul Rudd acts like a complete jerk for most of the movie, despite having a lot of reason to be. And while Steve Carell’s character is endearing, he’s still doing things that no real person would ever do. So we can’t root for him, because everything he does is so annoying. The funniest part of this movie for me was watching Bruce Greenwood play a complete dick at the head of a company. Because I’ve seen him in one of the most insane movies ever made, Gerald’s Game, and it’s super weird to think that this is the same guy. So yeah. Don’t watch this.
General Rating: 5.5/10(Yet another example of a cavalcade of excellent actors being wasted in a bad movie. As I said, there are some good scenes, but you can probably just find them on YouTube. It’s also very frustrating that the actual dinner maybe takes up about fifteen minutes of the runtime. Don’t watch it.)
Rudd Rating: 7/10(He’s fine in this, but he’s given no room to be funny. This is a lot like another Paul Rudd movie I recently watched, Overnight Delivery. He just whines and acts entitled the whole time and he has no real reason to be upset. It sucks, because you know he’s one of the funniest guys alive. And he can still be funny while playing the straight man! He did it in Role Models! Ugh.)
I hope you enjoyed this, but next time I really need to talk about something that isn’t so painfully average and cringey. So I was thinking to myself earlier, what is the opposite of this movie? What is the opposite of this unfunny movie with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell that is widely regarded as a joke? Well, the opposite of that is obviously a very funny movie with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell that is widely regarded as a classic. And that’s great news, because there are at least two of those(Three if you really like Anchorman 2)! And I’m still not ready to talk about the Anchorman movies, so next week I will be covering The 40 Year Old Virgin! Yay! And maybe there will also be an additional mini-review for a recent minor Paul Rudd performance that ties into the film. We’ll see.