Friday, January 7, 2011

Dinner for Schmucks DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Unappetizing Remake of French Farce Arrives on DVD

Hollywood has a horrible track record when it comes to remakes of foreign films, especially French farces, and Dinner for Schmucks is just the latest in a long line of tone-deaf adaptations. In this case, the Americanized version substitutes slapstick and a mean-spiritedness where there had once been a certain savoir faire combined with a sublime sense of humor.
The movie is based on The Dinner Game (1998), a dark comedy about a bunch of rich snobs who get their kicks by seeing who can invite the biggest loser to a weekly dinner party. Directed by Jay Roach, the plotline of this lousy knockoff may superficially sound a lot like the first but, trust me, it has somehow now lost most of the charm.
The unlikely-buddy vehicle co-stars Paul Rudd as the exploiter in need of a blithering idiot and Steve Carell as the unsuspecting stranger who conveniently fits the bill. At the point of departure, we meet Tim Conrad (Rudd), an aspiring executive at Fender Financial, an investment firm specializing in leveraged buyouts. His ruthless boss (Bruce Greenwood) sees a future in the young up-and-comer, but conditions a promotion to partner on his first winning the company’s secret dinner for idiots competition.
Tim is so conflicted about participating that he confides in his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) who makes him promise not to have anything to do with such a cruel hoax. He agrees, but goes back on his word after literally running into Barry (Carell), a terminally-clumsy IRS employee.
Tim sees the buffoon as a shoo-in to win the idiots contest and can’t resist the urge to invite him over to the apartment to get better acquainted. Not surprisingly, the tables are soon turned, albeit inadvertently, by hapless Barry who proceeds to make a holy mess of Tim’s life, whether by ruining his relationship with Julie, helping to aggravate his bad back, or elsewhat.
While Rudd again proves himself the consummate straight man, Carell’s sophomoric antics are a clear indication that any of the original’s sophistication got lost somewhere in the translation. A mediocre sitcom serving up a half-baked, TV dinner.
Check please!

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, crude humor and partial nudity.
Running time: 114 Minutes
Studio: Dreamworks Video
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, bloopers, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

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