Comedy is subjective. Many different people have many different tastes. Some enjoy smart comedies with more of a touch of satire, others pride themselves on broader comedies anyone can enjoy, and yet some prefer dark comedies with a lot of edge. I have to say Dinner for Schmucks fits into the mold of a general comedy that a lot of people can enjoy, and I’m personally thankful as they could have made a really made a snarky, mean-spirited movie and instead gave us tons of laughs with a great message. The film follows Tim, a guy in the midst of a big change in the corporate structure, hoping to snag the new job opening in the “big leagues” upstairs. He soon learns though in order to get the job he needs to win the prize in the monthly “Dinner for Idiots”, where each of them brings a buffoon, moron, or someone just generally “weird” for them to make fun of. Tim finds his schmuck sooner than expected when he hits Barry Speck, a taxidermist who makes “mouse-terpieces”, placing dead mice in poses and costumes inside shoe boxes. I’ll be totally honest for the first 30 minutes of so of the film I was convinced I had made a terrible decision in what to see, as the jokes and the setups take time to warm up. It’s sorta like my brain had to click in a certain mode of “Oh, it’s this kind of movie. I love this!’ because once the build-ups get there and once we’re familiar with the characters the jokes snowball for the rest of the film, gradually getting funnier until the crowning achievement that was the dinner scene, a scene that is the comedic equivalent of a great casserole. (All pun intended) A lot of the jokes in the film are sort of your broad humor with characters hitting things, falling, or physical humor, but the rest of the humor can range from goofy wordplay, escalating situational comedy, or even Steve Carell tapping into his Michael Scott schtick, a refreshing sight to see. Steve Carell, being the lead of the film crafts one of the most memorable and love-able comedic characters of the year. He definitely has the majority of the funny bits in the film, and proves he is the comedic actor of this generation by how well he does what he does. He delivers hysterical lines rapid fire throughout the movie, what improv you can tell he’s doing on screen is pure comedy magic, and he does it all with that goofy grin on his face, occasionally busting a gut laughing so that you can’t help but laugh with him. Paul Rudd once again plays the straight man to an art, allowing other characters to play off of him, and Zach Galifianikis pops in about 2/3 of the way into the film with a handful of great lines to only add to the already momentous hilarity at that point. I also had a lot of fun with Flight of the Conchord’s Jemaine Clement as Kieran Vollard, a really eccentric artist who spews funny like it’s second nature to him. There are moments you can tell the actors are testing out some improv material and playing off one another that makes for some of the movie’s best moments. That being said, I don’t think the film really hits its full potential comedically speaking. There’s a ton of solid humor to go around, but rarely is there that moment where it just goes to over-the-top hilarity. There’s a lot of work that each actor is clearly putting into their character, and the script gives them all their moment in the spotlight, but once again aside from Carell they didn’t go to over the top hilarity quite as much as I felt like could have been there. It does feel like the director Jay Roach is playing it a little safe with his material and trying to not step on any toes by making a generally appealing comedy. To be honest, it wasn’t a bad thing to me that they kept the film “safe” in not being a biting commentary or being a really dark comedy, which was something I thought I wanted at first. Throughout the movie they take a note from Apatow’s notebook and make a character as outrageous as Barry and they slowly make him more and more human so that you really care for him even when he’s being “a swirling tornado of destruction”. There are a lot of hidden character moments and little touches of human emotion hidden behind all the craziness that wasn’t necessary per say, but I was so glad it was there. By the end of the film you learn a message about tolerance and how we can all be schmucks sometimes, and it may have been just me but that message really struck me. Moments like that of utter sweetness and heart continue to astonish me in the same film like this where a guy makes a Last Supper recreation with dead mice or even in Get Him to the Greek where in the same film a guy vomits on the Today Show. All in all, Dinner for Schmucks really appeals to a certain demographic. When you see the trailer, that’s exactly what you’re getting. The film could have been a major letdown for me, it could have been without a pulse and dead joke after dead joke. However, as the credits were rolling I was so glad I went to see this, and I can recommend it to a lot of people. Dinner for Schmucks is a special movie that has the human touch to it with a moment or two of real sweetness with its characters, but also gives us some great comedic moments with some of the finest comedic actors of our generation to culminate in some of the most fun I’ve had this summer.
4 out of 5