Paul Rudd has a problem. He needs a schmuck, some idiot he can bring to a very important corporate dinner where high ranking boss types make fun of said morons. Sadly, these people are not that easy to find so he’s calling his secretary to cancel… err, wait. He just ran into one with his car. What luck.
A lot of Dinner for Schmucks is like that. No, scratch that too. All of Dinner for Schmucks is like that. You’ll rarely find a series of events more contrived than this, from the false drama created by a conveniently forgotten cell phone (twice!) to the two schmuck co-workers who just happen to be invited to the same dinner.
This is actually a remake of The Dinner Game, a French effort from 1998, and maybe the humor works better over there. We’re too nice for a movie like this, or at least that’s how we perceive ourselves in the movies. The film isn’t cruel or overwhelmingly cold, a risk a studio would never take here in the States.
It was a problem for the original though too, turning a schmuck as they’re called into a sympathetic figure, here Barry (Steve Carrel) mourning the loss of his wife via an odd hobby, Mousterpieces. There is little doubt these creations, where mice are forever frozen in time via some impressive miniature work courtesy of the Chiodo Brothers, are the stand out of the entire film. It gives Barry a bit of character, more so when you learn why he began creating them in the first place.
It pushes him out of goofball territory and into a depressed loner category, neither easy to laugh at or feel sorry for. Barry is in another world, along with the rest of these weirdos played by an eclectic cast of Hollywood comedic talent. If Barry was considered the winner of this group, it’s hard to understand the judging criteria.
Closing in on two hours, Dinner for Schmucks never finds its rhythm, and spends most of its time meandering as Barry goofs around and sets up the plot. He has more purpose in this regard than he does as Rudd’s goofy counterpart. Rudd is funny as always, and sells most of the movie on embarrassed expressions alone, this in-between swapping his cell phone for the sake of the script.
There’s nothing particularly striking about Paramount’s AVC encode for this middling comedy. It does quite a bit of good, sure. The transfer is loaded with excellent levels of fine detail, facial textures firm and clothing easily identifiable by its fabric. Sharpness remain consistent; there are no overwhelming scenes of softness. The mice sculptures are awesome, every piece of fur clearly defined, and the miniature backdrops clean.
A mild grain structure sits over the image, giving it a fine, film-like appeal. There are no spikes or instances of noise, the encode resolving any such issues without becoming noticeable. Contrast is typical for a comedy, never overly bright and situated on a natural level. Black levels are fine too, maybe failing to to reach a true level of depth and richness, but they remain sufficient.
The color is where things just sort of end up “blah.” It’s not a huge detractor, but the opening credits as they pan over the mice are extraordinarily colorful. Primaries are bold and the color depth outstanding. Then, we land in reality where the coldness of Rudd’s office just kills that momentum. Flesh tones are visibly peaked, and the film never reaches that same level of pleasing saturation.
It tries certainly, a sequence on a farm producing some warm, natural hues. Beyond that, Schmucks feels bland, the digital intermediate at fault sure, but it’s a disappointment. The color, or lack thereof really, zaps the black levels a bit and seems to take away their intensity. Paramount did fine though, which is what really matters in the end really, but our comedies sure are a weirdly colored bunch these days.
There is almost nothing for this DTS-HD mix to handle in terms of dialogue, but if you’re here to listen to people talk (and you are), this is the track for you. Modern audio provides us with warm, naturally rendered dialogue, free of distortion or other problems. If you guessed this was a bit of an act to fill in some space on this page, you would be correct.
An art exhibition provides a little bit of subwoofer work, Rudd standing outside while the dance music blares inside. Once he enters, it sort of dies, an odd effect considering how loud it sounded through the glass window. Mindless chatter is situated in the rears if that excites you, a later dinner scene almost eliminating that feature entirely. Not exciting stuff, but sufficient.
Biggest Schmuck in the World is your typical studio making of, nothing exciting, move along. The Men Behind the Mousterpieces is the most interesting mostly because the process of creating the miniatures was so difficult and complex. Meet the Winners introduces the schmucks in-character. Schmuck Ups are your bloopers, followed by six deleted scenes and a bit with Paul Rudd and Steve Carrel from the 2010 Espy Awards.