Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Dinner for Schmucks” a cocktail of laughs

By Dan Gigliotti

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“Dinner for Schmucks” offers a light fare of laughs, with tasteful jokes in modest proportions. For someone with a full appetite for gut-wrenching humor, this film leaves room for dessert.

When a coveted job promotion requires Tim to compromise his integrity, his disapproving girlfriend walks out on him. Forced to decide between a promising career and his significant other, a fateful encounter with Barry only complicates things from there on out.

Tim (Paul Rudd) and Barry (Steve Carell) are a genuine fit on screen. Barry’s naiveté brings truth to the saying “ignorance is bliss,” counteracting Tim’s anxiousness. As Tim struggles to appease his boss, potential client and girlfriend while maintaining his self-control, Barry constantly tests his patience, resulting in back-and-forth dialogue with the frustration of an Abbot and Costello routine.

Carried by a veteran group of supporting actors, the movie culminates with a scene that takes place at a formal dinner. The zany characters and wacky behavior have the audience laughing at the guests and feeling embarrassed for them at the same time – similar to a family reunion where everyone has too much to drink.

Rudd (“Anchorman,” “I Love You, Man,” “Role Models”) plays a mid-level financial executive whose boyish charm gains him esteem with his colleagues, but whose down-to-earth values may keep him from getting ahead. In what is no easy task playing alongside Carell, his performance is graceful, as usual, cuing tactfully off of his awkward counterpart.

Carell (“Anchorman,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) performs in yet another role which requires him to be outlandish and quirky as he plays a taxidermist with a unique talent. One can only hope that in the future his novelty as the unabashedly goofy and oblivious guy doesn’t wear off, as so many comedic actors in recent history have had their stars burnout because of type-casting. See: Jim Carey and Adam Sandler.

Yet, it is hard to dislike Carell’s silly and harmless role in this film. But in the same breath, it’s even tougher to not empathize with his castmates, who must deal with his painful honesty that could make Casanova feel awkward.

The stunning Stephanie Szostak (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) is impeccable as Tim’s girlfriend and a curator of an art gallery. Her sincerity provided a bit of normalcy amongst the riotous shenanigans following Tim and Barry.

Zach Galifianakis (“Out Cold,” “The Hangover”) may not have had the benefit of a superbly-written part, but did little to keep his supporting role as Therman the mind control expert magnetic.

On the other hand, the wildly funny Jemaine Clement (“The Flight of the Concords”) was a pleasant surprise, in his most recent foray into film as the incendiary artist Kieran, Tim’s appointed rival.

“Dinner for Schmucks” offers a lesson in humility that gives its viewers an appreciation for some of life’s simpler pleasures. If you have a big appetite for laughs, “Schmucks” may just be enough to tickle your fancy, but don’t watch it on an empty stomach.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]

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