French films have a reputation for being sophisticated and witty and complex, but the truth is that the French can make comedies just as dumb as the ones Hollywood churns out—we just don’t see them here all that often. Instead we see remakes like Dinner for Schmucks, based on Francis Veber’s 1998 farce The Dinner Game. It’s hard to argue that the filmmakers have diluted the brilliance of Veber’s comedy when there wasn’t much that was particularly clever in the first place. All that’s happened is that a dumb comedy has gotten slightly dumber.
It starts with a decent premise, though, involving a dinner in which businessmen compete to see who can invite the biggest idiot. Investment analyst Tim (Rudd), angling for a promotion, recruits socially inept Barry (Carell), whose hobby involves creating dioramas with taxidermied mice. Before they even get to the dinner, Barry wreaks havoc with Tim’s life in numerous ways, via increasingly strained slapstick and contrived misunderstandings that were handled more gracefully in the original. By the time the titular event rolls around, the movie has completely exhausted itself, although it hits a few laughs along the way. They’re about as mediocre in English as they were in French.