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.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should see Due Date it boils down to one key question: How big a fan of Zach Galifianakis are you? As a film it passes marginally. As a showcase for Galifianakis and all his quirks it soars. So that is really what’ll tip the scales for you one way or another.
The epitome of this is shown through the fact that his character who is an aspiring actor seeking to move out to LA. A doubtful Downey Jr. asks him to play out a scenario for him. On his second chance, after another false start, he really shines and it’s a great moment.
Before getting into some of the issues that do face this film it does need saying that this is indeed a very funny film. The three men who deliver the largest doses of that comedy are, of course, Galifianakis, Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Some of the situations are also rather humorous so that helps buoy the film along.
The major hurdle this film faces is the question of how forgiving are we as an audience and in turn should our protagonist be. Some of Ethan’s (Galiafianakis’s) mistakes are through sheer ignorance and naivete but towards the end you learn something that really changes things and you stop for a second and wonder how it would really pan out or how you’d prefer it to pan out, depending on your level of outrage.
Granted Galifianakis’s character does not have bad intentions he is just very socially maladjusted and awkward but still everyone has a breaking point and perhaps this had exceeded it. Only the logic that he does have to get there for the birth of his child and he’s already gotten so far really makes it feasible.
The baby brings to mind another quibble: the film plays up the “Is she cheating subplot?” a lot. Such that you think it’s a definite only to squash it. It only ends up being good for some humor but it went too far in terms of circumstantial evidence to be brushed aside so simply.
There are many good laughs to be had in this film it’s just the form it takes and some of the decisions that it makes along the way that are counterproductive to it reaching maximum effectiveness.
Due Date is out on DVD today.