Full review at SpliceToday
Critics should be honest, as I learned from A.O. Scott’s thoughtful essay on critical engagement with Inception. Why am I starting a review of Dinner for Schmucks with a reference to Inception? It was, for one, the only film audience members were talking about at the advance screening I attended. But it also begs critics to be honest about where they stand: on what they think film is supposed to be, on Christopher Nolan, on Hollywood marketing and so on. I’m being honest: I saw Dinner for Schmucks with Inception still on my mind.
So what did I think of Steve Carell’s latest entry in his library of lovable roles? Dinner for Schmucks makes me happy I only review films occasionally and at my leisure, and not, like most critics, several times a week and under professional duress. No wonder movies like Inception score near perfect (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inception/) ratings from critics: ambition and originality are truly rare in Hollywood—though this may be changing.
The problem is, I have nothing interesting to say about Dinner for Schmucks. It is not bad. You’ll probably enjoy it, especially after exhausting all the good blockbusters for the summer. It’s funny in parts. My audience was laughing regularly and heartily. The film has a certain wit, some of it no doubt added or enhanced by Carell’s charms. It just isn’t very stimulating, even with the anti-corporate message in the end.
Dinner for Schmucks is an American adaptation of a French film, Le dîner des cons. The concept is simple: rich people host a dinner for “idiots,” to laugh at them. The “idiots” are none the wiser, thinking they’ve been invited to a contest for the most extraordinary person. In our American version, a private equity analyst (Paul Rudd’s Tim) is up for a promotion and invites our idiot (Carell’s Barry) to the dinner. Barry proceeds to mess up everything in Tim’s life through his idiocy. Tim gets what he asked for, essentially.
Saying the French did it better is a terrible cliché. The French do some things better, not necessarily movies—they have tons of crap. But in this case, the French did it better.
FULL REVIEW at SpliceToday