I’ll admit I was skeptical. After all, the trailer gives Dinner for Schmucks absolutely no plot; it seems like nothing more than a bunch of guys sitting around, making fun of people. It was my complete faith in Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (plus the fact that movies last summer sucked, and perhaps boredom) that my family went to see it. And while the plot it ended up having was not an extraordinary one, it kept my interest and made me laugh.
Paul Rudd plays Tim Conrad, who is trying to be promoted at a job he hates so he can impress his girlfriend (played by Stephanie Szostak), whom he would like to marry. He learns that the higher-ups get together for dinner once a month, which they call “dinner for schmucks.” Each invitee is expected to bring a guest with an interesting (read: insane) talent. After helping to bring in an important client, he gets invited.
This is around the same time he meets Barry Speck (played by Steve Carell), who quickly proves that he would be the perfect guest for this dinner. His main hobby is to dress up dead mice and arrange them into scenes.
The brilliance of this movie is not in the plot, but in the characters. Tim struggles to make a relationship work with a woman he feels he does not deserve. Barry originally appears to be nothing more than the ideal specimen for this dinner, but in true Hollywood fashion, he eventually reveals a realistic and sad past.
Much like Rudd’s previous movie, I Love You, Man, a lot of this movie is centered around the unlikely friendship that forms between the two main male characters.
It is because of this friendship that Tim feels guilty and ends up confessing the true nature of the dinner to Barry. Barry shows up anyway, and leads the entertainment with his best mice scenes from throughout the ages (one of which was The Last Supper).
As anyone who has ever seen an episode of The Office can attest, Steve Carell can make you squirm. This movie makes excellent use of that talent. Barry’s naiveté comes out in his socially awkward actions and dialogue. The uncomfortable audience is saved as Tim perfectly mirrors our reactions. Much of Paul Rudd’s role in this movie was to stare quizzically at Carell.
Other memorable actors include Zack Galifianakis as Barry’s boss and a dinner guest, Jemaine Clement as an eccentric artist who is interested in Tim’s girlfriend, Julie, Jeff Dunham as (surprise!) a ventriloquist, and Ron Livingston as Tim’s competitive coworker.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie. While the storyline was a tad ridiculous, what else can we expect from Carell and Rudd, who have brought us the gems The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy? Like the other two, it made me laugh. I give it 3 stars.