I laughed A LOT during “Dinner for Schmucks,” as did the friend I saw it with. As did seemingly most of the press at the screening I attended (and I’m sure some are lying about it in their reviews). IndieWIRE’s own Nigel Smith admitted it was the hardest he’d laughed since “Anchorman.” I don’t know if I can say the same, but it is the funniest movie I’ve seen in a while. Yet I do feel guilty about laughing so much. After all, the humor is against the very moral of the film.
Inspired by Francis Veber’s 1998 French farce (and one of the few surprisingly good remakes of a French comedy), “Dinner for Schmucks” involves a mean-spirited party in which all the invitees bring the biggest idiot they can find, for the purpose of everyone ridiculing these “schmucks.” It’s therefore hypocritical — and I guess the comedy is unintentionally ironic? — to expect the audience to also laugh at the idiots for being idiots. The viewer is forced, if he or she has a broad sense of humor, to be no better than the film’s villains.
Is this acceptable? It’s not the first time a movie has been hypocritical. Just recently “Avatar’ preached an anti-technology, anti-capitalistic message while also being the most expensive and technologically advanced motion picture yet. Similarly, “Wall-E” has been called out for being heavily merchanized while having an anti-consumerist theme. But these movies didn’t exactly make us submit to that which they seemed to disapprove of. There are maybe three or four jokes in “Dinner for Schmucks” that aren’t at the expense of its moronic characters.
Is it wrong to laugh at stupid characters? If so, Steve Carell and many other comedic actors need to find new jobs. Or, are their caricatures of idiocy so exaggerated that we’re permitted to laugh in good conscience? I don’t want to feel bad for loving “Billy Madison,” “Step Brothers,” “Cabin Boy” and Carell’s Brick Tamland from “Anchorman.” These movies don’t remind us, though, that it’s bad to laugh at the intellectually disabled.
One other non-thematic matter I was confused about after the movie is how the winner of the game is decided. In the dinner scene, Zach Galifianakis’ character is said to be in the lead for the prize after displaying his “mind control” power over Carell’s character. But wouldn’t Carell still be the biggest loser if he’s the one being tricked into thinking he’s being dominated telepathically?
Okay, enough of my thoughts for now. The forum is open to you now to spout about “Dinner for Schmucks”
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.