Film: 'Dinner for Schmucks'; Director: Jay Roach; Cast: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement; Rating: *** and 1/2
Remakes are never easy. There is high expectation and the need to stick to the original idea and yet go beyond it. 'Dinner For Schmucks' not only manages to rise to the humour and pace of the original, it manages to do one better.
To get a promotion in his firm, high-flying investment advisor Tim (Paul Rudd) has to play the games of his peers i.e. find and invite an absolute idiot for dinner where he would be made fun of. His girlfriend despises the idea but when Barry (Steve Carell) - an absolute idiot - lands up before him, he sees this as destiny and decides to take him to dinner.
What he does not know is that the simple, honest, childlike man with a hobby of making 'mouseterpieces' will remind him of what is truly valuable in life, simple old school honesty and friendship.
Though many loyal fans of the 1998 French original 'Le Dinner de Cons' may not agree, 'Dinner for Schmucks' is actually an improvement on the original. While the original was mostly a 'fall-on-banana-peel-humour' film, without much semblance of an idea, 'Dinner...' has a soul.
The film states that it is not always the one who seems like an idiot who is actually the idiot and that often the joke is on the one laughing at others.
'Dinner...' make this point emotionally, albeit a little louder and with many twists to the original film, thus enabling it the title of a 'remake' instead of a 'copy' which the Bollywood film 'Bheja Fry', 'inspired' by the same French original, was.
It paints the world of the rich and famous as a fragile one which the injection of a little honesty from a 'schmuck' shatters.
Even the minor characters - like the world-famous painter who in his own way is an idiot, but whom the world celebrates as an 'artist', makes the same point.
Steve Carrel plays the role of the lovable schmuck with a timing that leaves the audience in splits. The timing and comic sense of choosy director Jay Roach who has earlier given us loveable comedies as 'Meet The Parents' and 'Meet The Fockers', is equally good. The sub plots are handled well.
'Dinner...' makes comments on a society that is quick to judge but dimwitted enough not to know what is truly admirable. The ones running after things that they can easily do without, are the real schmucks.
Though comparison with the original would not be entirely fair, even if you do that, 'Dinner...' scores, for rarely does a remake takes up the analogy of the original, and build it so beautifully.