Even if you go into 'Dinner for Schmucks' knowing that it's supposed to be an homage to old-time farces (it's a remake of the French film 'The Dinner Game' by Francis Verber) you may still find yourself gawking at your TV wondering, why is this supposed to be funny? Wiz-bang farces like 'What's Up Doc?' or 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, World' work because they never give up on their outlandish zaniness. They plow on, full steam ahead, into the territory of the nonsensical, but we laugh anyway. 'Dinner for Schmucks' would like you to think of it as a true farce, when in reality it's another formulaic comedy that harbors each and every cliché from comedies past.
Tim (Paul Rudd) is working his way up the corporate ladder. Intent on moving up a floor or two, and getting a bigger office. Problem is, Tim works with a bunch of moronic bosses, who find nothing worse than peons from the lower floors trying to wriggle their way up the food chain. Still, Tim is undaunted. He wants that promotion and he's going for it. After impressing the boss at the weekly meeting, Tim is invited to a dinner. The catch is that Tim must bring a guest. Not just any guest, mind you, they have to be the biggest idiot he can find. The bigger the idiot the better chances of winning.
Cue Barry (Steve Carell). Barry is a moron of epic proportions. He's socially clueless, and to make matters worse (or in Tim's case, better) Barry spends almost every free moment arranging dead mice to look like people. He's even made a Last Supper diorama complete with Jesus Mouse in the middle. After accidentally hitting Barry with his car, Tim decides that inviting Barry to the dinner for imbeciles is a no-brainer.
Steve Carell does his best, well, Steve Carell impression. If anyone's shtick is wearing thin, it's Carell's. His wide-eyed, goofiness becomes grating and annoying, which is sad because Carell can actually do complex characters. Here Carell is asked to do nothing more than gawk and snicker as he destroys Tim's life.
Silly misunderstandings rule this movie. It's one of those movies where, if each person took at least five minutes to explain their motives there would be no conflicts. Instead we're left to suffer through gag after gag until collectively throwing our hands up in surrender.
It's hard for me to hate this movie, because I like Paul Rudd so much. To his credit, it isn't his fault 'Dinner for Schmucks' is a slog to get through. He's the fun and friendly Rudd we've all come to know and love, but Carell steals the show (in the worst way possible) as he overshadows any of the heart Rudd is trying to inject into the movie.
For all of Carell's missteps, and for all of the ridiculous clichés built into the script, there are still some bright spots. Even though Barry almost single-handedly destroys this movie, his Tower of Dreamers speech is one of the best parts. Perhaps it's because we're finally moving away from moronic Steve Carell and toward multi-dimensional Steve Carell, who can still be silly but sincere at the same time. I just wish that's what we could have had all along.
The 1080p video presentation is warm and inviting, just like these light-hearted comedies usually are.
The balmy color palette comes alive with vibrant primaries, and strong blacks. Colors shine and shimmer (just take a look at the icy blue eyes of Mueller and his wife), while skintones always look natural. Even the dark, sinister paintings created by Kieran look richly detailed and colorful hanging on the walls of the art gallery with their dark reds, grays, browns, and blacks. Speaking of blacks, shadow delineation works wonders, and gives a great sense of depth during the darker scenes like when Barry and Tim enter the weird world of Kieran's photography room. Wider shots are a bit softer, but closeups feature quite a lot of facial detail, right down to the individual fluttering eyelashes of the beautiful Stephanie Szostak. Striking detail can be seen on the intricate clothing that is used to adorn Barry's dead mice friends. I was surprised by the amount of detail that can be had, by staring at Barry's taxidermy handiwork. Digital anomalies like aliasing, and banding where nowhere to be found. It's a clean image with some very remarkable detail that will please anyone who decides to pick this up.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation for the 'Dinner for Schmucks' Blu-ray works quite well. This is a bright, comedic romp, so we aren't expecting much in the way of really dynamic sounds bursting forth from our surround sound systems.
Dialogue is clearly intelligible through the center channels. Even whispers are audible and easy to hear. Directionality works smoothly and precisely as characters off screen or off center are placed exactly where they need to be. The surrounds are rather soft, but still offer some ambient sound in crowded restaurants and busy office settings. Panning effects work great, as is evidenced at the end as the vulture swoops from one end of the giant dining hall to the other. LFE is rather silent for much of the movie, but does pipe up every now and then to add in some subtle bass to a roaring fire or when the music on the soundtrack calls for it.
Even though I wasn't expecting much in the way of sonic delights, I was pleasantly surprised by what 'Dinner for Schmucks' had to offer.
I just don't think 'Dinner for Schmucks' is funny. Carell is the same guffawing, snickering lunatic that he's been in so many of his movies. He's so underused in a role like this that it's almost criminal. He shows glimpses of what could have been during his speech at the end, but he and Rudd are mired in a slog of a film that thinks sight gags and slapstick physical comedy are the funniest comedic bits ever invented. Fortunately the video and audio are delightfully nice. The special features feel mostly like promos, and aren't all that expansive. In the end, if you really want to see this one, rent it.