Sunday 5 September 2010

Review: Dinner for Schmucks

Year: 2010
Director: Jay Roach
Screenplay: David Guion, Michael Handelman
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell

Synopsis is here

We're a cruel race. Just purely awful at times. Far too often we are quick to revel in schadenfreude. I doubt anyone would I'm that wrong in saying this. I mean there isn't failblog for nothing is there? We particularity enjoy laughing at those who we feel are below us. How often do you hear people talk about how they can't wait for the next season of x-factor so they can watch and laugh at the guys at the start before it gets bogged down in the actual singers. We LOVE that stuff.

It comes to no surprise that our love for imbeciles rears it's head often on the big screen. From the man child comedies of Farrell and Sandler, the box office successes of such hits as Dumb and Dumber or Wayne's World. Mainstream audiences greatly enjoy the idea of laughing at simpletons. Dinner for Schmucks is no exception.

However, as I have mentioned before with the above mentioned examples, there is usually something within the film other than "stupidity" that gives the film a certain amount of enjoyment. I have not seen Le Dîner de Cons (the french original of this film) but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a strong social/moral element that you get very often with the french affair. I mean even their action films have to have a slight subtext it seems.

The point I'm making in the worst round about way is many of these films do their best to take away that schadenfreude element. Be it the likability of the characters, or a certain satirical, social or otherwise, there is something we can get behind to make sure it's not just a viral of a fat guy falling over. Dinner for Schmucks however, is an irritatingly tedious, board comedy with an uneven tone and grating characters. Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in a film and not doing enough to lift the material? Yep, for me, it was that bad.

It's not really the fault of the actors, for me it's a screenplay issue. This is a film that has difficulty with it's lovable loser character. It's obvious that the film wants a nice board everyone appeal. Unfortunately it's decided to tie this up with someone who seems to be having real, troubled mental issues. So bad does the film miss the mark with the character of Barry, that some of the later so called "punchlines" that the film tries land sound more likened to a Todd Solondz feature than anything else. Not that I dislike Solondz but he doesn't try and shoehorn unnecessary darkness in corners for a 12a film that clearly wants to be goofy. The character of Barry is so troubling because he is the person that the whole film is weighed upon. We're just been laughing AT him and his problems, then we need give a sentimental toss at a flick of a switch as if we weren't just giggling at this guy for all the wrong reason. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Observe and Report so much more, it's tone is dark but it doesn't suddenly try and fool you that it's dark tone was a clever rouse to get you to learn that the world is a better place if we "all get along". If you want to make clearly emotionally unpleasant jokes about finding the clitoris it works better if the rest of the film follows suit.

Add to this the fact that the film feels uniformly lazy in it's approach, Roach does nothing with the material to make this feel like a comedy worth watching. It goes from A to B at a tiresome pace, throwing in "comedic" elements that we've seen in better movies and wasting a Paul Rudd whose character in Friends (or maybe Halloween 6) had more to do than here. Lets not talk about the other comics in smaller roles because once again, you've seen them do better is other movies.

It is movies with stapled ending, simplistic humor and oddly smug overtones is why many have issues when Hollywood takes source material from overseas. I'm sure many haven't seen the French original but the backslapping, arrogant "we've clearly done it better" stench that emits from this stinker seems to say them "add it to your lovefilm".