Rewind Review: Dinner for Schmucks


As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Dinner for Schmucks

As per usual one thing you will not find in this review is a comparison to the original, The Dinner Game. It was a film I was unaware of before this release. I will be sure to look for it. Now for the film at hand.

One of the things that this film does rather effectively is that it puts its cast in a position to shine. Steve Carrell is at his Brick Tamland best in this part, though clearly brighter. Paul Rudd is most at home as a straight man and does a fine job here. Zach Galifianakis shows a different kind of character than he brought to the screen in The Hangover. Jemaine Clement brings his offbeat, irreverence in a role tailored for him and in an inspired piece of casting it was good to see Ron Livingston, of the soon-to-be-classic Office Space, play the kind of character he despised in that film
One great thing this film does is that it manages to avoid Sorry For Him Syndrome. This is a risk that comedies like this face and that Jay Roach has failed at on occasion. When dealing with a protagonist in a comedy who has the world come caving in on him usually through unfortunate coincidence there is a chance that it will be taken too far and thus you start to feel sorry for him and it ceases to be funny. It’s a bullet the director didn’t quite dodge in Meet the Parents but does here. How that happens is that ultimately you realize that Tim (Paul Rudd) is in the wrong for putting Barry (Steve Carell) in this situation.


Another thing that is rather surprising is that even in a film that typically gravitates towards lowbrow humor it does manage to create a lovable loser and build his character through a few montages. It uses his unusual taxidermy art to show who he is. Which is crucial with a character who is so seemingly socially inept and unintelligent it is necessary to make the audience understand him and give him some dimension.

Similarly, the building of Barry’s nemesis is also deft as Therman (Zach Galifianakis) is first just his workplace nemesis and then permeates Barry’s whole existence.

The only danger the film ever really runs into is just becoming too convoluted in the number of ways Tim’s life gets messed up by this one chance encounter. However, the film does have the predictability that allows you to know that things will resolve themselves and all you’re really anticipating is the dinner itself which thankfully dominates the third act though it could’ve gone a bit longer.


With many technical positives going for it that brings us to the crux of the matter: How funny is it? It’s pretty funny, it’s not hysterical but definitely good for a laugh and worth checking out.
It is a film that may grow on replay value but is unlikely to ever reach any sort of classic status on that basis like Anchorman did.
In the end this is a return to form for Jay Roach as one of the better comedy directors around. It’s a funny, wacky good-natured romp.


Review: Addicted to Fresno

Addicted to Fresno tells the story of two co-dependent sisters Martha (Natasha Lyonne) and Shannon (Judy Greer). Natasha is a lesbian, who is the more stable and responsible of the two and feels she always has to protect her sister and subjugates her own happiness. She helps out this time by getting Shannon a job after she is once again out of a rehab program for her sexual addiction.

This is the kind of film that takes a bit too much time to start going where it is predestined to, the lack all but the occasional minor surprise is a detriment to the film as well. It doesn’t offer enough modulation, and dimension for the characters until it’s too late to be salvaged. It thankfully doesn’t progress in to be the full-on trainwreck that the first act promises but its second and third act improvements do not ultimately salvage it but just make it tolerable.

The film does offer some laughs, and eventually takes a long hard look at these characters, it shows they do love one another and can examine their own and each other’s lives that pulls it from the realm of asshole cinema that it seems like its going to dwell in a strive for early on.

The performances bother from the leads; Natasha Lyonne who I have not seen enough of since her great debut in Everyone Says I Love You, is charming and relatable; Judy Greer who has recently garnered attention for her prodigious talents being under-utilized in blockbusters while having more screen time here seems to be an equally thankless position.

The standouts here in terms of memorable performances and comedic moments are actually the supporting players. Like Aubrey Plaza, as Martha’s love interest; Clea DuVall, who I also do not see enough of; Fred Armisen and Alison Tolman deliver with the greatest frequency and highest success; last but not least Ron Livingston.

All the players no matter how well they did are not well served by the script that feels like it could’ve used some polishing off, and the edit which could’ve truncated the tale so it’d move a bit better, especially at the denouement.

There’s slapstick potential that’s squandered in this film and that’s regrettable. The film in its patchwork way may find a cult of fans through Netflix or cable airings but will go down as ultimately forgettable and lamentable in my book.