It's been several years since director Jay Roach -- the guy responsible for both the Austin Powers and Meet The Parents trilogies -- has made a feature film and 2010 sees his return to the big screen with the third Meet The Parents film and an entirely new subject matter in Dinner For Schmucks. Roach's latest comedic vehicle is nearly as crass and crude as all of his previous projects, mixing genuine laughs with crossed-the-line sexual humor. It tries for a childish approach to seem innocent but it is clearly used for shock value and cheap laughs. It's unfortunate, too, because thanks to the comedic chops of Steve Carell, Dinner For Schmucks still has some truly funny moments.
Like with the Meet The Parents series, Roach will unload the comedy (and attempts at comedy) and lay on the silly stuff real thick as a build up to an effort at substance and heart before the story's end. Dinner For Schmucks does this too, trying to redeem its mean spirited nature of picking on outlandish characters for the amusement of others. But Roach makes sure that the film's lead, Tim - played by Paul Rudd, doesn't quite feel right about the idea. It wouldn't be too easy to relate to the film's central character if he was a completely heartless jerk, and that is what makes Rudd's character easier to support as his world comes crashing down after meeting Barry. But the scene stealer is Steve Carell with his completely well-intentioned buffoonery. Carell is no stranger to such a role, really - as he plays Michael Scott on TV's The Office, but Barry is in a league of his own, and Carell's reddish brown hair, glasses, and (appropriately) mousey teeth help separate him from his television counterpart. Barry is completely clueless and exaggeratedly dense, which is his greatest fault and handicap, but it makes his character endearing at the same time. Still, Roach takes this innocence that Barry has and uses it to reveal an immaturity and inexperience that leads to some awkward sexual humor.
Tim's girlfriend Julie works in an art gallery and one of her artist clients is an eccentric animal lover named Kieran, who openly talks about sex... and helping a zebra give birth by reaching into the animal and pulling the baby out. The latter is just one of the examples of the film's outrageous humor, but the former peaks when Barry and Tim stumble on Kieran completely naked except for a small piece of fur covering his crotch and butt crack, while he's with two naked women who are painted like animals and have what looks like small patches of whipped cream over their nipples and crotch area. They paw at each other like it's some national geographic special and he even invites Tim and Barry to join him (but obviously they don't). It's moments like those that push the rating system more than a little bit. When it comes to language, there's one obvious "F" word (said by Ron Livingston at the dinner), while Rudd also teases his girlfriend's mispronunciation of things and says "fooked" in place of another "F" word. There are also a handful of other colorful words and phrases, and literally about 30 uses of "G-d" (mostly "Oh my G-d"). Sexual encounters are talked about and even described a little bit - especially involving a girl who's completely obsessed with Tim who he had a drunk one night stand with years earlier which comes up in conversation, and the subject of a man who's having an affair with another man's wife comes up several times. Lastly, there's a little comedic violence, but also an instance where a man's finger is accidentally sliced off and we see it fly through the air. We then see it with a small pool of blood on the ground and then watch it get carried off by a bird. It's played for laughs, but still kind of gross.
Aside from the content, other problems with the film stem mostly from the movie being about twenty minutes too long. Most comedies don't extend past an hour and a half and Dinner For Schmucks reaches almost two hours in length. Because of this, several sequences seem to drag on just a bit and you start to wonder if a movie called Dinner For Schmucks would ever actually get to any kind of supposed dinner at all. The dinner isn't until the film's finale and it's almost laborious getting to it (and the trailers primarily showed scenes from it). Also, while Steve Carell seems to be at his comic best here, Paul Rudd almost doesn't cut it as the film's straight man. While he certainly isn't bad in Dinner For Schmucks, I'm just not sure he's leading man material. And although he's more of a Bud Abbott kind of character here to Carell's Lou Costello goofy companion, Rudd may just be slightly too dry to carry the film as the central character. Lastly, some may be offended by the fact that Barry recreated the Last Supper in a mouse diorama. While he seemed to mean no disrespect, it's used as a gag in the movie, and recycled for a later gag when Julie finds the mouse dressed as Jesus in Tim's pocket while they're fooling around.
It's unfortunate that Dinner For Schmucks favors the crude and crass over straight-up screwball laughs or physical humor. Carell really is at the top of his game as a witless doofus and he's a joy to watch here. He's responsible for some real genuine laughs during the movie. However, for every clean gag or innocent laugh there seem to be twice as many sexual references and jokes. It's way too much and because of it, I wouldn't recommend this one. Adult humor abounds in Dinner For Schmucks and it's one that moviegoers are better off passing by this Summer. You're much better off seeing Carell's other leading film, although animated, Despicable Me. Ironically, it's actually considerably less despicable. (Note: To those who do see the movie, there is a little, tiny, almost insignificant additional scene after the credits, so for anyone interested, you may want to wait them out).
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/30/10)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Lots of innuendo and sexual references: Tim's secretary jokes that it's hard to get "laid" when you smell after work (and then says "well, it's not that hard."); When the guys at work tell Tim about an exclusive dinner party, he jokingly asks if it involves an orgy (it doesn't); Williams teases Caldwell that his girlfriend is a hooker. When Caldwell insists she's not, Williams says that she offered him a "BJ," and Caldwell says "but it wasn't for money" to which Williams insists it was; In the film's intro, we see Barry's hands putting together mice dioramas and spray-painting on mouse sunbathing, giving it a tan. He paints around the bikini top of a mouse and pulls it away, to make like the mouse was sunbathing topless; We see mouse diorama photos of a man and a woman mouse in bed with a mouse walking in on them (depicting a real life affair); While Julie is playfully kissing Tim, she feels around his pocket and seems to suggestively comment on there being something there, but instead she finds a mouse dressed as Jesus in his pocket and their making out ends there; When Barry shows up at Tim's apartment, he finds a chat window open on Tim's computer. Barry starts answering the person's questions, and it turns out to be a girl who was stalking Tim. She asks risque questions like "Are you touching yourself," which Barry notices he's resting his face on his hand, so answers "Yes" (not understanding it's meant as sexual). She also sends him a photo of a woman's butt in sheer panties, which Barry prints out; Tim finds out about the conversation and explains to Barry that this girl, Darla, has been stalking him since he had a drunken one-night stand with her; Barry tries to intercept Darla from coming to visit Tim, by sitting in the apartment lobby with the photo of her butt (which we see several times) and when he intercepts the wrong person, he mentions to her about the sexual incident and the online chat and photo too; Barry suggests many, many times that Julie might be sleeping with Kieran and insists on calling Kieran because he might be able to get him to talk about his sexual history; Barry breaks into Kieran's apartment and we see Kieran walking around shirtless and in shorts. We then see him in a forest setting to take photos for his art collection with two naked women who have only body paint on and what looks like whipped cream covering their nipples and crotches. We then see that Kieran is naked too, despite a small piece of fur covering his butt crack and crotch. The three paw at each other until Tim comes in and interrupts them. Kieran remarks that he will have sex with those two girls and later invites Barry and Tim to join him (but obviously they don't); Kieran describes the story of a zebra giving birth and how he had to shove his arm up the zebra's vagina to help it give birth. He comments that he used the afterbirth to make his painting/drawing of him holding a zebra; We then see a barechested portrait of Kieran with a long black triangle and snake at his crotch. He asks Tim what it makes him think of and Tim comments that it's supposed to represent Kieran's penis, to which the artist confirms; Darla shows up at Tim's place in a trench coat and black corset undergarment. She tries coming on to Tim, licking his fingers and trying to kiss him, but Tim retreats to another room and locks himself inside. She decides to try to use Barry to make Tim jealous, and tries coming on to Barry. He doesn't understand that's what she's trying to do, and she ties to role play, saying she's a bad school girl that needs to be spanked. She then starts spanking herself and Barry gets excited (not sexually, but just cause he's stupid) and starts running around spanking himself; At a luncheon, Darla shows up and tries to come on to Tim again. She kisses him several times and then writes "I'm wet" in lipstick on a cloth napkin and hands it to him. Disgusted, he puts it on the floor next to him. Barry sees it, then reads it (not getting it) and then hands it to another man who looks at it, gets disgusted, and puts it aside; Barry comments that others in the room might have gonorrhea. When they insist no one in the room does, he says he does because his wife got it from a bus seat and that he can't have sex because he might pass it on; Thurman meets up with a woman and we see them kiss passionately and then he kisses down her front a bit (they're clothed) and she grabs his butt; Thurman tells Barry that he must tell him that Thurman can eat his "pudding." Barry refuses and he later reveals that he used to call his ex-wife "pudding" (who Thurman is now with); Barry and Thurman talk openly at the dinner about Thurman's affair with Barry's ex-wife. Barry reveals that his wife left him because he "couldn't find her clitoris." Everyone laughs and he said he still doesn't know where it is and that he thought he found it under the sofa, but that was just chewing gum. Barry says he wonders if it's in her purse because she always loses things in her purse and Thurman comments that he found it in "her naughty purse;" A man has a female dummy that he uses ventriloquism with and the dummy shows lots of cleavage. At one point she comments on how handsome Barry looks. In another scene, the dummy asks if Tim is looking down her dress. He says he's not and she asks him "why not?"; Barry tells Thurman about some things Thurman does during or after sex and that he knows that Thurman draws a face on his penis and even sings to it; We see a diorama of two mice on their honeymoon sitting up in bed together, looking out the window with another mouse hidden under the bed. Barry narrates that it's Tim and Julie on their honeymoon and he wanted to surprise them, but there was never a good time (meaning he was hiding under their bed during their honeymoon); Another diorama displays Darla trying to get Barry to look for clues to find something she's hidden and it shows a mouse at the door with arrows going across the floor, up a bed and pointing between the female mouse's legs as she sits on a bed.
1 "f" word, 1 imitated "f" word (as "fooked"), 7 "s" words," 1 "J*sus," 1 "J*sus Chr*st," 1 "For Chr*st's sake," 1 "a" word, 6 "h*ll," 1 "laid," 1 "ballsy," 1 "p*ssed off," about 30 derivatives of "G*d" (mostly as "Oh my G*d!"); Caldwell gives "the finger" to Williams
We see some drinking at parties, but nothing significant; Barry misinterprets Kieran's message about horses and grass as being something about drugs, including heroin (played for laughs as it has absolutely nothing to do with it)
A swordsman accidentally slices off a man's finger and we see it go flying through the air and land across the room. We then see a closeup of the finger on the ground and see some blood around it. We briefly see the man who lost the finger holding a bloody napkin on his hand, and then we see a bird fetch the finger and fly away; The mice in Barry's dioramas are dead. And although they're dead, they never seem gross or gory (if anything, they don't look real). But one is made to look like Vincent Van Goh and has a bandage around its head with a missing ear.
All comedic violence. Tim hits Barry with his car by accident, but Barry gets up and is just fine; Tim throws his back out and Barry climbs on top of him to try to crack it back into place; A woman throws bottles of wine at Barry and one crashes a glass shelf and another shatters on a door; A crazy woman smashes up a car with a metal post and then drives the sharp end of it through a car roof; A man waves a sword around at a party and accidentally cuts off a man's finger. Some other characters fence with him. A vase is then thrown through a window
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.