Words: Josh Blacker
'Dinner For Schmucks' (UK Release: 17 Jan '11)
Director: Jay Roach
Cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jermaine Clement
If you’d never seen the original 'The Italian Job' (1969), would watching 'The Italian Job' (2003) make you want to?
'Dinner For Schmucks' isn’t a terrible film. It has promising talent - Steve Carell, Jermaine Clement from 'Flight Of The Conchords', Paul Rudd and David Walliams. It has a promising premise - a monthly dinner hosted by Tim’s (Rudd) colleagues at his private equity firm, where each guest must bring an idiot. The guest who brings the ‘best’ idiot wins; Tim must impress to secure a promotion.
Tim meets Barry (Carell) by chance - and so ensues, of course, a farcical comedy. All the usual tricks are there: mistaken identities, physical comedy, funny accents and a deranged ex-girlfriend.
Eventually of course we come to the crux of the film. Who is the real schmuck? Is it really Barry, with whom Tim finds himself forming a real friendship? Is it Tim, for buying into this way of getting a promotion? Is it Tim’s colleagues? Or is it you, for buying into a Hollywood-ised version of a great French film?
'Le Diner de Cons' is, by all accounts, hilarious. But watching 'Dinner For Schmucks' doesn’t make me want to watch it, just as the bastardised 2003 Hollywood remake of a great British film wouldn’t really push anyone to see where the idea had come from.
Perhaps I’m being harsh to 'Dinner For Schmucks'. It really isn’t as bad as 'The Italian Job' (2003). But for a film with such heritage, and the talent that has produced some really great comedy TV and film, it doesn’t quite live up to what I’d hoped.
It made me laugh, eventually. Maybe not even out of desperation. The first two-thirds roll on and on, with predictable slapstick and twists, and the final third is pretty decent. But there’s something wrong with a comedy film where the outtakes are funnier than the jokes they included. The outtakes show what this could have been, had the natural talent of the actors been allowed to shine through. As it is, it seems to me that Hollywood has prevented something great from happening.
Carell does his best, and does what he’s good at, but it’s not quite good enough.
Enter our competition to win one of three copies of the DVD here. Or purchase from Amazon.co.uk. The original is also on BBC iPlayer for a limited time.