Stupidity is a virtue

Idiots abound in “Dinner for Schmucks”

Rudd and Carell schmucking around.

courtesy Paramount Pictures

Rudd and Carell schmucking around.

by Tony Libera

âÄúDinner for SchmucksâÄù Directed by: Jay Roach Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Zach Galifianakis Rated: PG-13 Showing at: Area theaters Steve Carell has made a career out of playing schmucks, but few of his characters have personified the Yiddish pejorative like Barry Speck . This man âÄî this king of schmucks âÄî is disaster incarnated, a toupeed train wreck that performs taxidermy on mice and unwittingly destroys everything in his path. But heâÄôs also a person, and âÄúDinner for SchmucksâÄù reminds us that even the dumbest of dolts have feelings. The schmuckery begins when up-and-coming executive Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) makes a power play, setting up a meeting between his firm and a Swiss millionaire. This ballsy move garners Tim a promotion, that is, if he can prove heâÄôs worthy at his bossâÄôs monthly âÄúDinner for Winners.âÄù The idea is that each attendee brings a person with a âÄúspecial talent,âÄù which Tim quickly learns is a thinly veiled way of saying âÄúan idiot.âÄù Tim is by no means a malicious soul, but this dinner is the only way to ascend the corporate ladder, thereby assuring stability for him and his longtime girlfriend. He wants to marry this woman, Julie (Stephanie Szostak), and he thinks sheâÄôll say yes if he can attain hotshot status. So, when fate hands him the schmuck of his dreams, he cannot resist, but Barry Speck quickly becomes more trouble than heâÄôs worth. The whirlwind of misunderstanding that follows is not nearly as funny as the concept allows. âÄúDinner for Schmucks,âÄù adapted from the French film âÄúThe Dinner GameâÄù by Francis Veber, has its laughs, sure, but hearty guffaws are few and far between. Most of the humor comes from awkward, increasingly cringe-worthy situational comedy, which is hit or miss. Then thereâÄôs the peppering of an unbelievably depressing Barry back-story, which quickly muzzles any laughter and makes us aware of just how sad this spectacle really is. The darker moments are surprisingly moving, making us question our own responses to CarellâÄôs character. WhatâÄôs more, this film could have been much funnier if the insane amount of comedic talent present was fully utilized. Rudd is forced to play the straight man to CarellâÄôs bouncing fool, which isnâÄôt bad because RuddâÄôs so damn talented. But it leaves us wanting more of the former and less of the latter. David Walliams , famous for his BBC hit âÄúLittle BritainâÄù and for his twisted portrayal of conceptual artist Vulva on âÄúSpaced ,âÄù plays the Swiss suit, more a villainous businessman than a charming joker. The performances of Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement are the biggest draws. Galifianakis plays a whacked out IRS stooge who thinks he has mind control powers, while Clement plays a conceited artist and noted lothario who wants to get with RuddâÄôs woman. These two goofs manage to be ridiculous without irritating, as Carell certainly does, and they steal the show in the process. In the end, âÄúDinner for SchmucksâÄù lands in the category of films that waste their potential. The farcical plot and zany characters amuse in spurts, but there isnâÄôt enough substance to sustain the film for the two hour running time. 2/4 Stars