Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Movie Log: Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks isn't really a good movie in any standard way -- though it does end up being reasonably funny in the last half-hour, to salvage the experience of watching it somewhat -- but it is an excellent object lesson in how to take a good movie and dumb it down in every way possible. Schmucks is a remake of the French film The Dinner Party, which was elegant, smart, pared-down, and absolutely hilarious.

Where Dinner Party had a morally ambiguous man at its center, Schmucks has Paul Rudd, playing Paul Rudd, the good-natured befuddled bright-faced boy-man he always is. Where Dinner Party dove right into its central situation -- privileged folks have a monthly party, to which each of them bring an "idiot" for their secret amusement -- Schmucks has to spend a prefatory half-hour carefully signposting every element of the plot and making sure Rudd's character is up to the Hollywood standard of likability. And in every way that Dinner Party was understated and smart, Schmucks is big and stupid.

So Schmucks spends nearly an hour -- a long, tedious, obvious hour, particularly to anyone who has seen Party -- setting its trite, cliched plot into careful place, and then finally starts running downhill, as much as it can. There is nothing at all that this movie does that Party doesn't do twice as well, and there is no reason to see this movie unless you have a very low opinion of your own standards, or a masochistic taste for bad American comedy.

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