A French adaptation import in which more than a little may have been lost in translation, Dinner For Schmucks is dubiously distinguished likewise by bad timing. That is, with its division of US society into suave if shrewdly calculating honcho suits and the idiotic rest of us during these economic hard times of stockbroker schemes and widespread rip-offs, mocking the masses for laughs right now is pretty much way beyond uncool.
Paul Rudd is Tim Conrad in Dinner For Schmucks, an obsessed get-ahead kind of corporate player who will do just about anything to make it up to the seventh floor of the dog eat dog food chain and his own corner office. Though the dapper private equity expert in distressed assets finds himself impeded by emotional insecurities, making it difficult to move beyond company loser status, or when making moves on his unimpressed object of matrimonial desire, Julie (Stephanie Szostak).
One day while in the act of driving and texting professional lies intended to serve as a career advancing ploy, Conrad mows down a pedestrian. The unfazed victim, who’s more concerned about the condition of his already quite dead stuffed rodent, is combo IRS tax man/taxidermist geek Barry (Steve Carell), a creator of self-described elaborate ‘mouse-terpieces.’
Barry then inexplicably attaches himself to Conrad, following him home and concocting excuses to never leave. Simultaneously stalking the flustered stockbroker and harboring unrequited pathological co-dependency issues too, is a one night stand nymphomaniac from years ago (Lucy Punch) who is not above ridiculously cornering Barry for kinky sex in the next room, presumably to make Conrad jealous.
When Conrad gets a surprise invite to a regular secret dinner party attended by the company rivals, which entails a bring-the best-idiot for supper contest, he grabs at the chance to ascend the corporate ladder by dragging along the more than eager Barry. Who with his dead mouse displays in tow, mistakenly believes the contest is for the most imaginative rather than actually most ridiculed gullible presenter of the evening.
Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet The Fockers), based on the Francis Veber (La Cage Aux Folles) French comedy The Dinner Game, and executive produced by among others, Sacha Baron Cohen, Dinner For Schmucks is more grotesque than gross-out for a change, but no less trafficking in generally crude yucks. While Carell, who switches it up from The Office’s malevolent honcho to mocked nine to five underling, is the occasional best thing going here, even as he draws explicit comparisons between lost and found female sexual apparatus and chewing gum.
Dinner For Schmucks doesn’t falter when it comes to truth in advertising, inviting audiences to a sit-down featuring gags that are laughing more at than with them, even if the contemptuous swells get spanked around a little as a tepid formality. Which tends to feature on this particular Moron Who Came To Dinner menu, items of predominantly bad taste.