Dinner for Schmucks

There’s a band called Sick Puppies with a song called “Odd One.” There’s a lyric in the song that goes: Odd one, I wish I was you You’re never concerned with acceptance. We are all desperately seeking out and fitting in With anyone who will accept us. But not you, odd one. This week’s movie, “Dinner for Schmucks,” is populated with people who are desperate to fit in no matter who they must hurt or how cheaply they must sell their souls. It also has plenty of odd ones. Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) has plans to move up at his job at a financial management firm. He approaches his boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood) with an idea to bring in a Swiss multi-millionaire and manage his massive portfolio. Fender likes the idea and the initiative of Tim to put forth a moneymaking plan. Tim could get a promotion and a recently vacated office on the seventh floor if he can do two things: First, he must land the new account and second, he must bring a guest to a dinner party hosted by the boss. This however won’t be the standard dinner party. Tim’s guest must be a loser--someone Fender and the others from the office can ridicule and laugh at behind their backs. Tim tells his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) about the possible promotion and the dinner. She finds the dinner a repulsive idea and makes it clear Tim shouldn’t go. Tim agrees, although somewhat reluctantly. While driving to work the next day, Tim literally runs into Barry Speck (Steve Carell). Barry was in the street trying to pick up a dead mouse carcass for his collection of preserved, dressed and posed mouse dioramas depicting historic events and great works of art. Tim has found his idiot. Now, if Tim can survive the next few days until the dinner without Julie finding out and leaving him for a pretentious artist whose showings she manages, without a three year old one night stand from tracking him down, and Barry’s constant “help” backfiring into catastrophe, his life should be perfect. “Dinner for Schmucks” could have been a dark, mean-spirited film about the elite and their perceived superiority over those they consider beneath them. It actually is a very sweet and funny film that doesn’t get so wrapped up in the clash of classes that it forgets the laughs. Steve Carell is terrific as Barry. The characters’ naiveté, earnestness and complete lack of ego make him the eye of the hurricane; he’s the calm center that causes total destruction all around him. Barry actually is an idiot but he means well. He’s the child who wants to make mom pancakes on her birthday and ends up destroying the kitchen which mom must clean up. And with all this destruction, there must be a victim. In this case, Paul Rudd is the ideal man for the job. Rudd has perfected the persona of the put upon everyman. He can deal with the craziness for only so long before he lashes out. He only wants a promotion so he can continue to live a comfortable life with his beautiful French girlfriend in a stylish apartment and drive a hot sports car. What’s the big deal if he has to humiliate another human being to get it?! The film requires that Rudd’s character learn his lesson but the ending doesn’t seem too terribly contrived. What does seem a bit contrived is a couple of subplots involving Kieran (Jemaine Clement), the sex- and self-obsessed artist Julie works with and Darla (Lucy Punch), Tim’s New Year’s Eve one night stand. While each of these serves a purpose, they are mostly time fillers the filmmakers may have felt were necessary to add a more madcap feel to the story. It doesn’t really work that well and tends to drag down the pace of the movie (especially the artist storyline). Still, these minor problems don’t diminish what is otherwise a very enjoyable film. “Dinner for Schmucks” is rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language. There is some crude talk of spanking. One scene has the artist and a couple of models wearing nothing put strategically placed feathers. Foul language is scattered. “Dinner for Schmucks” is based on a French film called “Le Diner de Cons,” which translates to “The Dinner Game.” Certainly a game is being played, but who exactly is in control? Is it the rich and powerful men who are hosting the dinner or the guests who are perceived to be losers? Your opinion reflects more about you than the hosts and guests. My opinion is strictly limited to the film and I liked it. “Dinner for Schmucks” gets five guitars. A cop comedy, a 3D dance movie, a true story of the seamier side of the Internet and an unconventional family are your choices this week. Choose the next movie I see and review. The Other Guys—Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as a pair of sidelined police detectives who finally get their chance to step up. Step Up 3D—A tight-knit group of street dancers find themselves pitted against the world's best dancers in a high-stakes hip hop showdown. Middle Men—The true story of a businessman who ventured into Internet porn and became one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs of his time. The Kids Are All Right—A brother and sister set out to find the sperm donor that their same-sex parents used. Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres. Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN. Have a question? Send it to stanthemovieman@att.net.