Dinner for Schmucks
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Tim Conrad is a guy on his way up the corporate ladder, with an eye on the executive rung. So in a company meeting with the big boss, Mr. Fender, Tim takes a chance and tosses out a big-money idea he's been working on. And Fender is pleased.
No seventh-floor corner office quite yet, though. Fender still isn't sure Tim is cut out for upper management. His real test will come at a monthly dinner he hosts where all the execs compete to see who can bring the most pathetic and idiotic guest. Just for fun, you understand—a good meal and a little merciless mocking.
If Tim brings somebody suitably hapless and entertaining, the corner office could be his.
But even promotion-hungry Tim is unsure if he's ready to join in on that kind of cruel frivolity. And when his live-in love, Julie, balks at the morally perverse idea, Tim decides to decline the invitation.
Then he runs into Barry—quite literally. And when Tim peels the guy up off the tarmac and learns that Barry is a gigantic bundle of oddball quirkiness who enjoys creating elaborate dioramas with stuffed mice, well … how can he pass up an opportunity like that?
Now all he has to do is take the grinning buffoon under his wing and make it to the dinner. But befriending this goofy force of nature is no easy task.
Although Tim sets out to use Barry as a means to further his career, with time he realizes how wrong and inappropriate that choice is. Part of his awakening is motivated by his girlfriend, Julie. In fact, she finds the idea so repugnant she's shocked Tim would even consider it. "There shouldn't be a 'you' I don't know," she says as she threatens to walk away from their relationship.
The rest of Tim's enlightenment comes by way of getting to know Barry. In spite of the taxidermist's many flaws ("He's a tornado of destruction") Barry earnestly tries to help his new friend and always follows through on his word. "That's what friends do," Barry says.
[Spoiler Warning] Tim later apologizes to Barry, lauds his good (or at least "better") character and encourages him to stand up for himself. Tim then goes so far as to publicly denounce his bosses' "special dinners" and quit his job. He confesses his failures in his relationship with Julie and professes his love for her. The two reconcile and marry.
It the midst of the collection of "mousterpieces" Barry shows Tim, there are mouse-populated replicas of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam and da Vinci's The Last Supper. Barry plucks the "Jesus" mouse out of the latter diorama and hands it to Tim. Then a narrating Tim mockingly uses this "sign" to justify inviting Barry to the dinner, saying, "God wanted me to move to the seventh floor, and He sent His only Son to make it happen."
Julie's client, Kieran, is a hedonistic artist who states that there are only two things in life, "wonderful sexy sex and horrible death." So his paintings and other creations feature various near-nude, animalistic forms. One picture, for instance, shows a snapping viper protruding from his crotch. We see him during a photo session wearing a codpiece and some dangling feathers. Writhing around with him are two nude women covered only by body paint. When Julie comes to him in tears after a fight with Tim, Kieran wants to capture her emotion on film, and so he drapes a flimsy wrap around her while he cavorts in a Satyr costume.
Darla, an ex-fling of Tim's, e-mails him a photo of her barely clad backside and asks if he's masturbating. When Barry inadvertently invites her over to Tim's apartment, she shows up in a cleavage-boosting skintight leather outfit. She salaciously presses Tim for sex while licking his fingers. She rubs herself all over Barry, licking his face and offering to let Tim watch them have sex. She grabs Tim's phone and stuffs it down her pants so he has to "talk to her crotch." She slaps her backside and yells out suggestive lines about "spankings." She crams her tongue into Tim's mouth.
Even some of the mouse dioramas reflect sexual situations. One shows a mouse husband finding his wife in bed with an interloper. Another shows a "Barry" mouse hiding under a bed which holds a mouse couple on top of it.
Other visuals include a dinner guest and an anatomically accurate ventriloquist dummy, both sporting lots of cleavage. Tim and Julie kiss on several occasions. One time she snuggles up to him and reaches seductively into his pocket—only to find one of Barry's mouse creations.
And then there are the sexualized gags peppered throughout the dialogue—one-liners that cover everything from oral sex to casual pick-ups to sexual arousal to prostitution to a lengthy discussion of Barry's ex-wife's clitoris and her lover's tendency to dress up his penis and sing it songs.
Barry slams face-first into Tim's windshield and rolls to the ground. Later he pulls Tim out of an elevator and sends him tumbling to the floor—injuring Tim's back.
Darla gets upset with Tim on two different occasions and causes quite a bit of destructive damage. In one scene she starts throwing things, smashing shelves and kicking over furniture. She also batters Tim's Porsche, even jamming a spear-like pole through its roof.
One of the guests at Fender's dinner is a blind fencer who begins swinging his sword around when he learns that he's been made to look like a fool. He slashes furniture and curtains, hacks off somebody's finger and knocks over several candles to cause a raging fire. (A vulture grabs the severed digit and flies away.)
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. One "mispronounced" f-word. A handful of s-words. Milder curses include "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑." Combined, God's and Jesus' names are abused more than 20 times.
The title of this movie is also crude. Merriam-Webster says that schmuck is derived from the Yiddish word shmok which means "a stupid or naive, or foolish person," or more literally, a "penis."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Tim and the company executives share mixed drinks at the office. Tim and Julie have some wine at a dinner date. Swiss business contacts drink champagne at a lunch meeting with Tim. Fender's dinner guests down wine and hard liquor. Darla smashes bottles of wine against the walls of Tim's apartment.
When Tim and Barry hear that Julie is driving up to a friend's horse ranch, Barry interprets that as code for her going to a wild drug party. "Horse is heroin," he reasons.
One of Barry's mice "smokes" a pipe.
Other Negative Elements
Kieran crudely talks of being up to his elbow in a zebra's vagina. Barry's boss "forces" Barry to do and say embarrassing things in public. (Barry's been convinced that the man has mind-control powers.) One of the dinner guests lets a vulture pull food out of his mouth.
Some movies are disappointing because of what they lack. Others are disappointing because of all they waste. Dinner for Schmucks stumbles into that latter group.
This is one of those flicks that, at its core, has a lot to offer. There are some genuinely funny moments on hand, thanks in large part to Steve Carell's mouse-artist Barry—who's not the sharpest chunk of cheddar in the trap but is still an earnest, good-natured guy audiences can laugh "with" and root for. The film ends with some solid statements about the benefits of honesty and real friendship. And it ultimately sneers at the foolishness of mistreating and exploiting others.
We live in the comedy age of Apatow. (Cross-reference Funny People, Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.) Which means that lots of lowball gross-outs and vulgarity are all but required in cinematic laughers. Not that director Jay Roach needs much coaxing, seeing as how he's spent most of his career helming the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents franchises.
So flushable toilet humor, raw gags and sleazy sexual imagery are scattered around this pic like an overabundance of mouse droppings—leaving the whole film reeking with that dirty cage funk.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Steve Carell as Barry; Paul Rudd as Tim Conrad; Zach Galifianakis as Therman; Stephanie Szostak as Julie; Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Fender; Jemaine Clement as Kieran Vollard
July 30, 2010
January 4, 2011