It’s remarkable how quickly the new comedy Dinner for Schmucks disappears from your brain. I can recall laughing my way through the vast majority of the film–mostly soft laughs, but there were more than a few big, hearty laughs from deep down in the diaphragm. (One might more economically call such a laugh a “guffaw,” but guffaw is such a silly word I refuse to acknowledge I might ever participate in one.)
Despite the inarguable fact that I was entertained throughout the entirety of Dinner for Schmucks — a film that never actually uses the word “schmuck,” but we’ll get to that — I can’t deny feeling rather empty while considering it a little more than a day later. I think this must be why many reviewers are giving the flick fairly lukewarm marks, though they had to be laughing their respective asses off on occasion just as I was.
There are lots of reasons not to respect the movie. There’s the fact that it’s reportedly a fairly pale “reimagination” of a French film, Francis Veber’s Le dîner de cons (The Dinner Game). (I haven’t seen the original, so I can’t compare.) The screenplay is inarguably mediocre. Some of the characters, especially those at the eventual dinner, are lazily imagined. And it’s disappointing to see Paul Rudd, who’s capable of much more interesting, brilliantly caustic characters (in Wet Hot American Summer and Anchorman, for starters) relegated to playing yet another purely-reactive straight man.
And yet… Dinner for Schmucks is funny. Very funny. Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. It’s like a frozen Snickers bite-size bar when you’re having a chocolate craving: Incredibly satisfying for about five minutes… after which, you’ll forget all about it.
Yet I can’t help wanting to recommend Schmucks, and dammit, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Because for the ninety minutes you’re in the theater, it is a lot of fun. It’s a much better date night film than, say, the relentlessly mediocre Date Night.