DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS 2 stars
Paramount Pictures, Rated PG-13
An adaptation of a French import in which more than a little may have been lost in translation, Dinner For Schmucks is dubiously distinguished by bad timing: With its division of U.S. society into suave, shrewdly calculating suits and the idiotic rest of us during economic hard times made of stockbroker schemes and widespread rip-offs, mocking the masses has a bad aftertaste.
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Paul Rudd is Tim Conrad, an obsessed get-ahead kind of corporate player who will do just about anything to make it up to the seventh floor of the dog-eat-dog food chain and his own corner office. The dapper private equity expert finds himself impeded by emotional insecurities, making it difficult to move beyond his status as the company loser, or when making moves on his unimpressed object of matrimonial desire, Julie (Stephanie Szostak).
One day while driving and texting professional lies intended to serve as a career-advancing ploy, Conrad mows down a pedestrian. The unfazed victim, who’s more concerned about the condition of his already dead stuffed rodent, is combo IRS tax man/taxidermist geek Barry (Steve Carell), a creator of self-described elaborate “mouse-terpieces.”
Barry then inexplicably attaches himself to Conrad, following him home and concocting excuses to never leave. Simultaneously stalking the flustered stockbroker and harboring unrequited pathological co-dependency issues is a one-night-stand nymphomaniac (Lucy Punch) who is not above cornering Barry for kinky sex, presumably to make Conrad jealous.
When Conrad gets a surprise invite to a regular secret dinner party attended by the company rivals which entails a bring-the best-idiot-for-supper contest, he grabs at the chance to ascend the corporate ladder by dragging along the more than eager Barry who, with his dead mouse displays in tow, mistakenly believes the contest is for the most imaginative person in attendance.
Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Fockers), based on the Francis Veber (La Cage Aux Folles) French comedy The Dinner Game and executive produced by, among others, Sacha Baron Cohen, Dinner for Schmucks is more grotesque than gross-out for a change, but no less reliant on crude yucks. Carell, who switches it up from The Office’s head honcho to mocked 9-to-5 underling, is the occasional best thing going here.
Dinner For Schmucks doesn’t falter when it comes to truth in advertising, inviting audiences to a sit-down featuring gags that are laughing more at than with them, even if the contemptuous swells get spanked around a little as a tepid formality.