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Film / Dinner for Schmucks

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Steve Carell making Paul Rudd watch this movie.

Dinner for Schmucks is a 2010 American remake of the French comedy The Dinner Game, directed by Jay Roach and starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

Tim (Rudd) is a member of a highly competitive corporation, filled with sadistic bosses, cutthroat coworkers, and devoted secretaries. He works day in, day out, to make enough money to support his girlfriend Julie (Stéphanie Szostak), whom he loves dearly and desperately wants to make his fiancée. One day a fellow coworker is fired, and immediately people begin to discuss who will take his job. Later, in a presentation, Tim makes a daring move to get respect from his bosses, much to the horror of his coworkers. Surprisingly, it goes incredibly well. They tell him that he's in line for a promotion, if he attends a "dinner for winners", an annual event to find the biggest idiot for comedic purposes.

Meanwhile, Julie has landed a curator deal with an eccentric artist named Kieran (Jemaine Clement). He takes that opportunity to propose, hoping she'll say yes. She turns him down, as it turns out she had done multiple times before. The conversation turns to Tim's potential promotion and, in extension, to the actual "dinner for idiots." She is not very happy with the idea of the dinner, however. He agrees not to do it. Later on, he meets Barry (Carell), a taxidermist who loves to make mice dioramas. Tim has found his idiot. Despite agreeing not to do it, Tim decides to take Barry with him to the dinner.

Before that, though, he takes him to his apartment, where Barry notices Darla (Lucy Punch) IMing him. Assuming that Tim is involved with Darla in some way, Barry makes some flirtatious replies in an attempt to be helpful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Darla is really Tim's Psycho Ex-Girlfriend doubling as a Stalker with a Crush, who Tim has been trying to get rid of for quite a while. Meanwhile, Kieran is becoming... fond of Julie as Tim is trying to hide the fact that he's not only going against his agreement with her to not go to the dinner, he's taking Barry as his idiot as well. Along the way, numerous mishaps happen. It also features a blatant ripoff of Aldous Snow.

Dinner for Schmucks provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Darla has stalked Tim ever since they hooked up at a party way before he even met Julie.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: In an attempt to be helpful, Barry not only brings Darla to Tim's lunch date with the Muellers as "Julie," he also brings the engagement ring Tim bought for Julie. Tim ends up being put on the spot to propose to Darla as Julie.
  • Animal Motif: A lot of Kieran's art has this. Also, Barry has a mouse motif, and actually looks a little like a mouse himself.
  • Assumed Win: When the trophy is about to handed out, the blind swordsman starts to get up to accept it before it is given to Barry.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-universe example. Barry misremembers the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine" as "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not."
    Tim: ...the only one.
    Barry: The only what?
  • Beard of Evil: Therman Murch, played by Zach Galifianakis, has an impressive beard, and he's an abusive boss who seduced Barry's wife from him.
  • Betty and Veronica: With Julie as Archie, Tim as Betty (been her boyfriend for a long time, normal, wants to marry her), and Kieran as Veronica (just met her, eccentric, mainly interested in her as a paramour).
  • Blind Weaponmaster: One of the schmucks fancies himself a blind Master Swordsman. He isn't.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Darla's behavior would have caused outrage both in-universe and out if the sexes had been switched.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: When his co-workers are explaining to Tim that he should bring a stupid person to the dinner, one of them warns, "No mimes; it's a cliché"
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Played with by Tim's girlfriend Julie. She's French, and she's certainly beautiful, but she's not as sexualised as Darla.
  • Feathered Fiend: Subverted by Lorenzo the vulture. He's implied to have pecked his owner repeatedly, and he makes off with Mr. Mueller's finger, but he's portrayed in a sympathetic light like his owner, and Tim and Barry try to convince the corrupt executives not to kill him.
  • Fingore: Courtesy of the blind swordsman. Then the vulture steals it.
  • Gratuitous German: Obviously, the Swiss version of "dinner for idiots" is "dinner for unterschlagen".note 
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Darla starts throwing bottles at Barry in Tim's apartment, breaking two of them. Barry catches one bottle, mimes drinking from it, and then smashes it afterwards, not getting that Darla might be trying to kill him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After furiously bashing Tim's car with a lamp upon learning that he already had a girlfriend, Darla coldly tells him, "You're not a very nice man, Tim."
  • I Call Him "Mister Happy": Therman, although no one was supposed to know about it.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: When Darla attempts to seduce Barry, Barry has Entendre Failure. Also, it turns out that his ex-wife divorced him because he not only couldn't find her clitoris, he didn't even know what a clitoris was.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Barry averts this, being a friendly tax man, but his boss Therman Murch plays it straight, for Barry at least, by being a Fat Bastard Mean Boss who loves mind-controlling Barry into agreeing to let him "eat (Barry's) pudding"- in other words, have sex with Barry's ex-wife.
  • Jerkass:
    • Pretty much all of the hosts of the dinner, but Caldwell takes the cake.
    • Darla is a criminally insane woman who violently assaults two men and destroys private property.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Thanks to him losing his "mind-duel" with Barry, we see Therman's later is stuck in a mental hospital, and Fender's company goes under, with Forbes Magazine taunting him as "Wall Street's Biggest Loser."
  • Literal-Minded: Barry, multiple times. One example is when Darla starts saying she is a naughty schoolgirl that needs to be spanked, Barry starts going on about how she is too old to be in school and how he is not qualified to be a teacher rather than getting the obvious sexual innuendo.
  • Loony Friends Improve Your Personality: Tim after hanging around with Barry.
  • Mad Artist: Kieran Vollard borders on this.
  • Master Swordsman: Parodied with the blind fencer.
  • Metaphorgotten: "Maybe I'm just a goat halfway through eating himself." "...What were we talking about again?"
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it look like the dinner takes up most of the film, when it actually happens within the last half-hour.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Tim exposes the real theme of the dinners, even though it means he'll lose his lucrative job.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Averted, in that Barry's dioramas using stuffed mice are actually sweet and artistic. (Played straight in real life: the artists who created the dioramas for the film had to avoid using real mice had because they looked creepy).
  • Trailers Always Spoil: In the movie, the appearance of Therman as the final "winner" is clearly set up as a surprise for the audience. Too bad every single trailer for the movie featured several clips of him and Barry mind dueling around the guests!
  • Unusual Euphemism: Tim and Jullie "curate" on their honeymoon. Several times.
  • Welcome to My World: Parodied. The blind swordsman tries to black out the room but only turns off a lamp. Played straight later, when Jullie experiences the weirdness that circles Barry.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A rather unique version, each of the character's fates are told through one of Barry's taxidermied mice dioramas.
  • When Life Gives You Lemons...:
    Barry: When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Unless you don't have any water or sugar. And then you just eat the lemons, and the rind will give you diarrhea.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: When Barry reveals Fender's company has gone under in the Epilogue (through a diorama of a mouse in the burnt ruins of a mansion), and in a post-credits scene, Fender is named "Wall Street's Biggest Loser" by Forbes Magazine. Barry is enjoying the reversal of fortune.
  • World of Ham: Not just Barry, Therman and the rest of the eccentric dinner guests, but also Darla and Kieran.