In Dinner For Schmucks (a remake of a French film with a French title). go-getting but under-appreciated investment analyst Paul Rudd wants a promotion at his firm. He gets an opportunity when invited to a dinner the boss holds where everyone brings as their guest the craziest people they can find to be made fun of with the "winner" getting a trophy and their sponsor receiving career advancement.
While Rudd is repulsed by the idea, he needs a promotion to make more money to entice his girlfriend, an art agent, to marry him; she's rebuffed previous proposals. When he accidentally hits Steve Carrell while texting and driving, he's apologetic until he learns that Carrell makes taxidermy dioramas with mice in elaborate costumes and sets. Could this sad, goofy man be his ticket to moving upstairs or lead him down the road of moral compromise and disaster?
Directed by Jay Roach - who started off well with the Austin Power series before sliding with Meet The Parents/Fockers movies - forgets Shakespeare's admonition that brevity is the soul of wit and as the film drags out to nearly two hours in length (any comedy running longer than 100 minutes is pushing its luck; hear me Judd Apatow?) it's a slow-moving muddle as it clearly doesn't have the guts to commit to being as nasty as it wants to be.
Carrell does things that make a shambles of Rudd's life, but is he really an idiot or a clumsy but decent fellow? A subplot about Rudd's girlfriend and the sex-crazed egomaniacal artist she works with doesn't work because if he thinks so easily that she's cheating with him, why is he gung-ho to marry her? The backstory about Carrell and his boss, the usually funnier Zach Galifianakis is a tonal mess, too.
The ending dinner scene is where they clearly saved all their energies for and it has the biggest laughs, albeit in a mean-spirited manner. The best is a blind swordsman who mentions, "I also paint." "Really? Are you any good?" "I have no idea." Of course a lot of wild slapstick ensues and everyone learns a valuable lesson about being themselves and blah-blah-woof-woof. It's a long walk to a not particularly interesting destination.
Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.