Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks

Jay Roach’s Dinner For Schmucks is an ironic title for this film because the ‘schmucks’ therein are more interesting and charismatic than most of the people I’ve ever shared a dinner table with. A psychic medium who talks to dead pets? A dude with a pet turkey vulture? A ventriloquist with hella marriage issues? A guy who taxidermies dead mice into gorgeously elaborate dioramas? A fucking blind fencer are you kidding me?? These are the people I want to party with. Anyways this film rocks and is built around the ludicrously funny but unfortunate premise of a rich asshole CEO (Bruce Greenwood) who hosts a dinner once a year where each of his smarmy junior execs pick the most outlandish person they can find to bring along to dinner, and whoever’s guest they make fun of the most is invited into his dumb little rich boys club. Paul Rudd is a golden boy employee looking for that perfect dinner guest who he finds in Steve Carell, who is the mouse taxidermist, bordering on the spectrum and is a laugh riot the entire film. Rudd’s art-world girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak) thinks the whole dinner idea is reprehensible (she’s right of course, it’s legit the meanest fucking thing ever) and tells him not to go but it could potentially mean a huge promotion so he’s torn in the classic ‘angsty but funny conflicted Paul Rudd’ way that he’s almost patented these days. He’s also relentlessly pursued by his psycho bitch of an ex girlfriend (we’ve all got one), constantly dealing with the bizarre sexual advances on his current girlfriend perpetrated by larger than life performance artist Jermaine Clement and doggedly shadowed by Carell and his kindergarten asylum antics that cause mess after mess. If my review seems like it’s taking a long time to get to the dinner itself, well the film does the same thing and you begin to wonder if it’ll ever happen… then it does and trust me it’s worth the wait. The film has a stacked cast including Octavia Spencer, Chris O’ Dowd, Ron Livingston, Lucy Punch, David Walliams, Jeff Dunham, Patrick Fischler, Rick Overton, Nicole Laliberte, Alex Borstein and a reliably bizarre Zach Galifinakis who somehow manages to be even weirder than Carell himself, which trust me is an achievement here. Much of the humour is improvised and not all of it lands squarely (Clement overdoes the elemental, sultry musk of his oddball artist and can be a drag) but Carell fires on all of his certifiably insane cylinders for a character that’s lost in his own abstract world and for long periods of time is only able to communicate in bursts of eyebrow raising verbal and physical eccentricities which are just too funny. I’ve seldom laughed harder than I did at him trying to speak gibberish Austrian and sounding like the Swedish chef in front of a literal Austrian couple who do not look amused. There’s also an inherent sweetness to the film as it evolves and Rudd’s character realizes what his boss is doing is not okay in any universe and takes steps to both derail it and connect better with Carell’s whirlwind of unorthodox behaviour, who is actually a really decent guy underneath all of his issues. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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