Esther Patterson/ Contributing Writer
An hour and a half prior to the screening of “Dinner for Schmucks”, I made a list of things I could predict about the film without having seen it: There will be a dinner.
There will be schmucks. There will be a predictable plotline with heaps of schadenfreude and a side serving of fart jokes. Paul Rudd and Steve Carell will be adorable and hilarious.
I was wrong about the fart jokes. There were none. Now that is unpredictable for a Jay Roach (“Austin Powers”, “Meet the Parents”) film.
Here’s the plot in a few untidy sentences, which seems a far more appropriate medium for it than, say, a two-hour film; Tim (played by Paul Rudd) wants a promotion at work. He exhibits the drive, ideas, and qualities necessary for the corporate position, but his boss will only promote him if he brings the winning idiot to a monthly dinner / competition for idiots and corporate assholes. Through a stroke of luck, Tim runs into Barry (Steve Carell), literally and painfully with his car, and soon discovers Barry’s hobby of creating diorama art with taxidermy mice is his golden ticket to dinner, and the promotion.
The obstructions to Tim’s plan are numerous, including but not limited to, his own conscience, his girlfriend’s conscience, Barry’s kindness, and the whimsical nature of the mouse art, which looks like it belongs in the company of Nick Park’s or Wes Anderson’s stop motion films.
My least obvious complaint about ‘Schmucks’ is that the dinner party primarily consists of Daily Show and Comedy Central luminaries like Zach Galifanakis and Jeff Dunham, yet the scene is late in the film, and hardly a main course in less than 20 minutes of the nearly two-hour running time. Likewise, two of the comedic geniuses from “Flight of the Conchords”, Kristen Schaal, as Rudd’s cynical, foul-mouthed secretary, and Jemaine Clement, the horny, literally cloven-hooved, artist Kieran, are both vital to the storyline, but are underutilized and frankly, muddled in a mush of competing screen time among all the comedic actors in the film.
These comedians are the heart of the film, and it seems cruel to subject each of them to half-assed side-stories when any one of them could’ve carried a two-hour film on their own with more filling laughs than ‘Schmucks’ has. Hell, the psychic who talks to dead animals could have a show on Animal Planet called “The Cock Whisperer” and I would enjoy it more than this film.