LydonReviews Dinner for Schmucks

Posted by under *mixed, Movies |

Last night after a dinner in Langhorne, PA at Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise, which warrants a post about crappy cover bands (a topic I know a thing or two about as PTB and KevinMLD will surely remember from my previous Diary of a Bass Player column from the old Break Even site), my wife and I saw Dinner for Schmucks, the American remake of the French movie The Dinner Game, itself based on the French play, Le Diner de Cons, both written by Francis Veber. Thanks for the info, Wikipedia! You make me look smart! Oh, and for those that don’t speak French, the translated titled apparently DOES mean “Dinner for Idiots”.

Who knew? (French people, probably)

The premise: president of a finance firm hosts a monthly dinner for his executives to which they must bring an idiot to entertain the gathered guests. The exec bringing the most outlandish idiot gets on the fast track at the firm. Paul Rudd plays the kind of role you expect him to play in Tim, though maybe a touch less jerky than usual. Steve Carell’s Barry, the idiot that Tim literally runs over in the middle of the street, is a mix of Michael Scott from The Office and Andy from The 40 Year Old Virgin, though there is something else at play that is different than both characters. Barry ends up as more proof that Carell is a subtle comic genius, which is good, because with other players, this movie would not have been nearly as good.

Of course, this is a movie about over the top characters, and two ensemble characters in particular ALMOST steal the show: Kieran Vollard, played by Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement (looking almost Russell Brand-ish with a beard and long hair) and Therman, Barry’s boss at the IRS, played by the always ridiculous Zach Galifianakis. Add some douche-y office types, a boozy secretary, haughty Swiss investors, a crazy stalker and an incredibly beautiful girlfriend on the verge of leaving main character Tim, and hilarity ensues.

While this sounds like paint by numbers comedy, something about the joy of Carell’s performance and the gathering of the idiots at the dinner somehow makes this movie feel fresh. Maybe I’ll think differently when I sit down to watch the original, but I can’t imagine that seeing the original French version will be better. I felt like I learned that the hard way with The Bird Cage and its French original, La Cage aux Folles.

Hmmm… Francis Veber is the screenwriter involved in both of those AND both of these? Well, you lucked out this time, Frank. Maybe something gets lost in your translation?

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  • jayco said,

    You should update the comment section or the post with a brief thought on the French version after you’ve seen it. I’d be interested to hear how it matches up.

  • lydonwrites said,

    I aim to do just such a thing, Jayco. Need to update my Netflix queue to make it happen!

  • LydonWrites said,

    Not that I think Jayco’s been waiting for my update with baited breath, but I DID watch the French version of this a few months ago (FINALLY). It wasn’t bad. In fact, MOST of the action of the movie took place in the apartment, and the French versions of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd never went to the dinner.

    Better? I wouldn’t say that, necessarily, but certainly different, and still good, even if I did have to read subtitles the whole way.

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