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Dinner for Schmucks(2010)
Tim, is an up-and-coming executive who has just received his first invitation to the "dinner for idiots," a monthly event hosted by his boss that promises bragging rights to the exec that shows up with the biggest buffoon. Tim's fiancee, 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 idiot gold. Tim can't resist, and invites Barry, whose blundering good intentions soon sends Tim's life into a frenzied downward spiral and a series of misadventures, threatening a major business deal, bringing crazy stalker ex-girlfriend, Darla, back into Tim's life and driving Julie into the arms of another man.
For more about Dinner for Schmucks and the Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray release, see Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch
Director: Jay Roach
» See full cast & crew
Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray Review
And it's mighty tasty, too.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 3, 2011
Everything happens for a reason.
Dinner For Schmucks' basic premise requires it to walk a tightrope between hilarity and bad taste, and Director Jay Roach's (Meet the Parents) hit summer Comedy does so brilliantly, falling squarely on the side of the former without ever stumbling towards the latter. The story has disaster written all over it, not only in how one of its lead characters manages to ruin the other's life in mere hours, but in the possibility that the filmmakers might choose to highlight the truly unfortunate rather than poke fun at obviously over-the-top caricatures. Dinner For Schmucks revels in the laughs that stem from a bad luck charm who recreates famous works of art and historical events by outfitting dead mice and placing them in carefully-constructed shadow boxes, not to mention a man convinced he's capable of mind control, a woman who speaks with deceased animal spirits, a blind swordsman, and a goofball puppeteer, among others. It's all in good, relatively clean fun, and Dinner for Schmucks -- despite a few problems, namely several dragging stretches and the resultant overlong runtime -- is an oftentimes uproarious Comedy about finding the best in oneself and the people who make life really worth living.
Tim (Pual Rudd, Anchorman) is an up-and-coming businessman who has a great idea that's ready for primetime and sure to get him out of the rut on the sixth floor and into the recently-vacated office of his newly-fired coworker on the desirable seventh floor. He pitches his idea -- lamps made from leftover World War I ordinance -- not as a world-changing invention but instead a means of getting on the good side of a rich Swedish businessman (David Walliams) that could bring big profits to the investment firm. Tim's boss Lance (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek) is impressed with the idea -- enough so that he invites Tim to a prestigious company dinner, but there's a catch: Tim must bring with him a guest who can wow the seventh-floor executives through unparalleled idiocy. Tim's girlfriend and would-be fiance Julie (Stephanie Szostak) isn't thrilled with the idea, and just as Tim is set to call off the dinner -- and probably his future at the firm -- he literally runs into Barry (Steve Carell, "The Office"), a goofy artist with zero social skills and a talent that's sure to win Tim praise at the dinner, but at what price to his social life and his soul? Can Tim maintain his sanity and his quickly-crumbling home life until the dinner, or will he and Barry develop and unlikely friendship that will reveal to Tim the identities of the world's truly idiotic?
With a fun and unique but non-offensive plot firmly in place, Dinner For Schmucks needs only to capitalize on the potential of its story to win over audiences. It reaches that goal far more often than not, culminating in a downright hilarious final act that brings the picture's primary arc full circle, as well as setting up the predicable but nevertheless welcome influx of heart and humanity that's needed to offset what is something of a mean-spirited premise, albeit one that's handled with kid gloves and in good taste. Unfortunately, there are stretches where Schmucks drags on and slows to a snail's pace; the repetitive nature of some of the gags and the time it takes to flesh many of them out are the main culprits, leading to a slightly bloated runtime. Fortunately, most of the film's problems stem from issues in the editing room rather than problems with the humor or shortcomings of the cast. Dinner For Schmucks overcomes its primary fault with a crisp, smart, and incredibly humorous final act that moves along at breakneck speed and effectively cancels out a slow middle third, all with the help of several memorable performances that are some of the best Comedy's had to offer in the past few years.
Dinner For Schmucks' success depends on Steve Carell's ability to play his part with equal parts charm and dimwittedness, and the veteran comedian pulls it off marvelously. He plays the character as an average guy on the outside but with both an imaginative personality and a na´vetÚ about life and how it works that makes the character so memorable. Carell sees the character far past simply a dead mouse artist, which is in and of itself enough to place the character squarely into the "space cadet" grouping; he channels an ability to play things so straight, honest, and goodhearted but at the same time so obviously but unintentionally troublesome and with a boneheaded ineptitude that the character comes across as equal parts frustrating and comically ingenious. Carell is the perfect choice to play the part; he's beaming with a glorious happy-go-lucky fašade in every frame, but he also finds the character's emotional center and doesn't allow his social shortcomings to get in the way of any of the heart and soul that pull the character and the story together at the end. Paul Rudd and the additional supporting cast are all serviceably good, too, but Zach Galifianakis positively steals the show as the film's surprise character in one of the funniest performances in quite some time.
The real purpose behind Dinner for Schmucks? It's not to glorify the goofy but to vilify those who do. It's obvious from the get-go who the film's true "idiots" are, not necessarily from a base exterior social perspective but from an emotional and psychological angle. Dinner for Schmucks has a lot of fun in highlighting that it's not oddball behavior but rather abhorrent disregard for others that defines true idiocy, even if the film does get there by, well, having a lot of fun with people who don't exactly fit into any one typical rung of the societal ladder. Colorfully innocent and generally well-meaning misfits might bring the laughs, but they also bring the core of the story by playing counter to the black hearts of the seventh floor office denizens who find their entertainment not necessarily through the misfortunes of others -- that's where the film might have gone terribly wrong -- but through those that prefer to see the world and live their lives from a slightly off-kilter perspective that just so happens to lie opposite what those in power believe to be in the acceptable range of normal. Dinner For Schmucks celebrates diversity, in a way; it's a movie that lets audiences have their cake and eat it too, allowing them to have a laugh at the expense of some of the most socially inept folks ever to grace the screen but to also leave the movie knowing that they're actually far more human than those who would gleefully degrade them and kick them to the curb at the end of the day and after a hearty meal.
Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dinner for Schmucks' 1080p Blu-ray release is solid if not a bit unexceptional. Detail ranges from adequate to better-than-average; the opening sequence featuring Barry's creations sports strong textures in the tiny clothes, wooden accents, woven picnic baskets, and faux grasses. Facial and clothing detail is quite good throughout, too. Colors ever-so-slightly veer towards a warmer tint, but are otherwise steady and honest throughout, whether looking at Barry's purple jacket or some of the many blue shades seen throughout. Flesh tones favor a warmer appearance in most instances, though they occasionally veer far towards a red/orange shade while at other times appearing a bit more pale than normal. Depth is average and softness is never an issue. A moderately heavy layer of grain is retained throughout, lending to the transfer a pleasing cinematic texture. Banding, aliasing, blocking, and other eyesores are absent in any large or discernible quantities. Overall, this is a fine and technically proficient but not necessarily memorable transfer from Paramount.
Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dinner for Schmucks is a movie without anything in the way of sonic pizazz, but Paramount's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack handles the film's limited resources with ease. Music is smooth and efficient, nicely handled and even played with a bit of flair by the front speakers, supported by a light surround element. Environmental atmospherics -- primarily city-related ambience such as walking pedestrians and honking horns -- add some spunk to several otherwise dialogue-heavy outdoor scenes; most such effects are heard primarily in the front with, again, a token amount of surround support. Chapter nine is one of the film's most lively as a few recorded rainforest atmospherics fill the soundstage and do a rather good job of sonically transporting listeners into the unique environment. Additionally, the track features a few well-placed discrete effects that also break up an otherwise talk-heavy soundtrack. Dialogue is handled efficiently and without issue by the center. This is a very basic soundtrack that won't become seared into the memory, but it's handled with an admirable proficiency that does the limited material proud.
Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dinner for Schmucks features a serviceable but disappointingly shallow selection of supplements. Most notable isn't any one of the extras but instead the absence of a commentary track or two.
Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dinner for Schmucks is a fun and not too terribly flawed little Comedy that takes potentially disturbing or even immoral material and manages to have two hours worth of good, relatively clean fun with it. The film is a bit overlong and overwrought in a few places -- notably in a somewhat sluggish middle section -- but the finale makes the whole thing worth while, as do two of the best Comedic performances in recent years courtesy of Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Dinner for Schmucks yields a quality technical presentation and a few extras. Recommended.
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• Paramount Offering $5 Coupon for Dinner for Schmucks Blu-ray - January 5, 2011
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Director Robert Rodriguez has spent his entire career creating films that fail to conform to Hollywood's pre-conceived notion about what an action film should look like. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to have any desire to stop. His latest film Machete, which is out ...
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