August 8, 2010


"Dinner for Schmucks" (although the word "schmucks" never comes up in the movie—the invitees are referred to as "idiots") is a screwball sex comedy that should be rated R rather than PG-13, due to the explicit and continuous spoken and visual sexual content. (The MPAA reasons for it being PG-13 mentioning "sexual" a lot should be heeded.) Definitely not for young teens. The writing is pretty sharp, there's some funny stuff that's not ribald, and Steve Carell is totally in his element as a dork unwittingly invited to a bored-rich-people's-dinner in order to be secretly made fun of. There's a big job promotion for Tim (Paul Rudd) riding on the success of this dinner. It would have been a more successful plot if Tim's getting his girlfriend back was also part of the dinner stakes somehow. Tim and his live-in girlfriend have a sweet love story woven in, mostly to pluck at our heartstrings, it seems. Barry (Steve Carells' character) has a sad ex-wife story-line.

The film is medium-paced and relaxed, which also exposes the actors (who do a great job for what the movie is). Barry is one of those annoying "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "What About Bob?" "Cable Guy" nuisances who just won't go away and ends up ruining-saving the straight man's life (Tim). Barry's particular schtick (since we're using Yiddish "sch" words) is mice taxidermy dioramas. Yes! It's funny and it totally works!

Are the sex jokes funny? Yes, even a bit original—but crude. Often kind of shocking, in-your-face, devolution cheap shots. Sometimes I think Hollywood doesn't realize how crass it really is, how it has contributed to the lowering that is now commonplace, how not the whole world is exposed to what goes on at wild Hollywood parties, perhaps. But then, what about what goes on at parties on college campuses? Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Or maybe the chicken would have laid the egg by itself. But now I just sound like Steve Carell's character, king of the malapropism and misquote.

I constantly felt embarrassed and insulted by this movie for just relentlessly taking me where I didn't want to go (the gutter). I even found myself sort of "not hearing" what I didn't want to hear. Just blocking it out. Because it makes me sad. Because when you know Theology of the Body, lasciviousness induces melancholy. Because it was too much too often and degrading. And I don't often feel this way while watching a movie. It felt like, somehow, the movie just wasn't coming from a good place. Like it was coming from a place that just wanted to make money but knew that it had to actually be a little clever to do good box office. (What the Bible calls a wisdom that is "cunning.") I just couldn't help thinking that we, the audience, were being played for schmucks for going along with this movie!

I could say more about the creative elements of the film. But why bother?

My advice? Skip "Dinner." You won't even feel hungry.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks... We were just not sure bat seeing this or if every joke was in the preview.... Defintely food for thought here.