Dinner For Schmucks

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -3

Steve Carell, Paul Rudd. Comedy. Written by David Guion, Michael Handelman, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Jon Vitti. Directed by Jay Roach.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Paul Rudd plays Tim, an up-and-comer who has been invited to a "dinner for idiots," a monthly event hosted by his boss. Bring the biggest idiot and you get a prestigious position in the organization. Tim's fiancée, Julie, finds it distasteful and Tim agrees to skip the dinner, until he bumps into Barry--an IRS employee who devotes his spare time to building elaborate taxidermy mouse dioramas--and quickly realizes he's struck fool’s gold. Tim can't resist, and invites Barry, whose blundering good intentions soon sends Tim's life into a series of misadventures. Based on a French farce, Le Dinner de Cons.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I found this to be the funniest movie so far this year. Steve Carell’s outstanding comic performance is sincere, touching and hysterical. It is a perfectly cast film, with everyone doing wonderful lighthearted work, each actor revealing a gift for comic timing or beautifully playing straight to the film’s funnymen. Indeed, Paul Rudd plays straight man as good as Lou Costello’s Bud Abbott or Jerry Lewis’ Dean Martin. The film has a muted message about seeking what’s important, putting love of life and others above success and prominence. That said, it’s mainly a movie designed to make you forget the cares of the day. Alas, there is a “but.”

Much of the humor is generated from bawdy bedroom buffoonery. Mr. Carell’s character is simple-minded (to the point that when his wife declared he didn’t know where a certain body part could be found, he searched throughout the house looking for it). Though some of the humor borders on coarseness, Carell’s performance gives it gentleness, an innocent simplicity, somehow taking the sting out of the biting humor. He touches us, causing us to feel. It’s a comic performance that deserves recognition come awards’ season.

You know how I hate crass humor, I rant about it all the time. I must admit, however, that I found the humor here bawdy rather than crude. Maybe that’s because Carell’s Barry is innocent and kindhearted, a gentle soul. Or perhaps I, your humble movie correspondent, have finally succumbed to crude comedy. All I know is that I laughed, not so much at the oafish plotline, but at Carell’s masterful handling of a comic and touching characterization. I didn’t feel dirty or want to tell crude jokes after the film, or live in sin (as many of the characters did). I just felt good when I left the theater. Witty writing and a perfect performance put Dinner For Schmucks a step above most comedies this summer season.

As always, I hope you’ll find my opinion a fun read, but I pray it is the synopsis and content (the reason for the rating) that aids you in deciding if you should attend. This is a sweet-natured movie, despite the evil premise the plot is based on. It’s a sort of morality tale, where a character learns to better himself as a person. But it is also a film that filled to capacity with ribald wit and risqué situations.

DVD Alternative: The Stooge. Remember Lewis and Martin? This was one of their best collaborations, and in it you have a simple man causing a self-centered friend to discover a better side to life and his own nature – just like Dinner For Schmucks, only without the bawdiness. Dean Martin plays an egocentric singer who discovers the hard way that his comic stooge (Jerry Lewis as a guy who sits in the audience and heckles the performer) is the truly gifted talent.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Paramount Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Though Barry sees the world from a child-like perspective, bawdy, perhaps even crude situations happen around him – and sometimes because of him.

Obscene Language: Around seven obscenities, mostly the s-word and three or four minor expletives.

Profanity: Christ’s name is profaned three times (never by the innocent lead).

Violence: There are a few slapstick situations, such as a crazed woman destroying a man’s expensive sports car while he sits inside, enduring the act of violence.

Sex: Our hero innocently stumbles upon a internet stalker who constantly refers to sexual matters – “I’m a bad schoolgirl and I need to be punished”, to which Barry innocently questions, “Aren’t you a little old to be a schoolgirl?” There is a lot of humor the rides the rail between bawdy and crude.

Nudity: None, but we see a photo of a woman’s panty-covered rear.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: A great deal of the humor is generated by the discussion of sexuality.

Drugs: Brief drinking.

Other: None

Running Time: 110 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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