Dinner for Schmucks: An American Remake
Dinner for Schmucks was released in 2010 when we were in the midst of what felt like a comedy hey-day. Films like Easy A, Hot Tub Time Machine, Date Night, and Kick-Ass were making audiences laugh and providing us with humorous quotes to use with (on) our friends. Schmucks cast the ever lovable and ageless Paul Rudd alongside Steve Carell with a well-stocked comedic supporting cast. The film is essentially an embellished and elongated version of the French Film, Le Dîner de Cons (also called The Dinner Game, 1998) that it was based on. While numerous elements were nearly identical there were some stark contrasts - some of which seem motivated by stuffing as many jokes into the film as possible.
The Dinner Game spends the majority of the film in one location – Pierre Brochant’s home. The fool in this film is Francois Pignon - he makes miniature artworks out of matches. Pierre invites him over before they head to dinner but of course, they never make it to dinner. Dinner for Schmucks, by contrast, heads to multiple locations including multiple homes, workplaces, and a restaurant. And they do make it to dinner. The comedy from the “odd couple” pairing of Pierre and Francois or Tim (Rudd) and Barry (Carell) serves better in one location where the personalities can truly clash while simultaneously revealing the characters’ motivations. When we travel to multiple locations we are easily distracted by the jokes, the additional characters, the hijinks of each scene – but we learn less about character motivations. Francois seems like a friendly yet lonely individual while Barry just kind of seems like a funny moron who doesn’t understand what he’s doing.
Since we make it to the actual dining event in Dinner for Schmucks we learn about the additional “fools” and their talents. This is humorous but pushes the film beyond the 90-minutes that it should have been contained within. Ultimately both films are good for a laugh but The Dinner Game felt quicker, more honest, and less focused on including everyone and their mother’s funny joke.