From Reel to Rental: Dinner for Schmucks

Have you ever known someone who was socially inept, lacking in common sense or reckless to the point that they can make life miserable? Dinner for Shmucks takes all of the aforementioned qualities and rolls them into one good-natured, yet calamitous shmuck named Barry, played by Steve Carell.

On the receiving end of Barry’s nightmarish antics is an overextended executive, Tim, played by Paul Rudd. Tim is invited by his boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), to attend a party where the person who brings the most interestingly idiotic person gains esteem among his peers and potentially a promotion. Tim presents the idea to his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak), who has kindly rejected his repeated marriage proposals. She halfway convinces him that the dinner is morally wrong. As the conflicted and distracted Tim drives his car, he hits Barry as he picks up a dead mouse in the street. Tim realizes after a few awkward moments interacting with Barry that he’s perfect for the dinner and invites him.

Tim’s dinner invitation to Barry is akin to inviting a vampire into his house — except Barry isn’t after blood. Rather, as Barry burrows deeper into Tim’s life like a voracious tick, his very nature begins to drain Tim’s quality of life and quickly chips away at his relationship with Julie.

After a series of puzzling and completely ridiculous missteps by Barry, Tim’s relationship is on the rocks, his career is teetering on destruction and Tim is reintroduced to a psychotic ex-fling named Darla (Lucy Punch). Darla, in conjunction with Barry, creates some very awkward and threatening situations for Tim.

As Tim’s life deteriorates, Barry suggests they call on the aid of Barry’s boss Therman, played by Zack Galifianakis. Therman is nearly as “exceptional” as Barry and ends up only making things worse.

Dinner for Shmucks starts out a little slow and there aren’t as many laughs in the first half of the movie as I would have liked. Carrell, as usual, is quite successful as an idiot as is Galifianakis. However, there is very little variation from their performances from similar roles in recent years, leaving few remarkable scenes.

The film is entertaining and I was uncomfortable watching scenes with Darla — with the scene where she stands in for Julie at lunch being one of the most memorable in the film.

If you’re a fan of films where Carrell and Galifianakis play buffoons, you’ll get a kick out of Dinner for Shmucks, but caution: This movie isn’t nearly as fun and original as The 40 Year Old Virgin nor is Galifianakis’ performance as stupendously stupid as in The Hangover.

Director: Jay Roach

Box office release: July 30

Genre: Comedy


Star count: three