When a movie opens with a woman telling her husband that she wants a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage and it isn’t played for laughs, you know you’re not in for a “typical” Hollywood comedy. Given the current state of comedy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what we get instead is an odd, meandering, mood-swinging movie called Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Yes, there’s a period at the end of the title, for no apparent reason.)
As the central couple, Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play their scenes honestly and believably, so while the characters and incidents around them become farcical at times, the core of the film remains—
I’d like to extoll the virtues of a great comedy, but this isn’t it. A word of explanation: I come to Dinner for Schmucks at a disadvantage, because I love the French film on which it’s based, The Dinner Game (1998). I’ve also heard its creator, the brilliant writer-director Francis Veber, describe his filmmaking philosophy, and criticize Hollywood colleagues for always wanting to expand and complicate his material. (The Birdcage is the best translation ever made of a Veber property, but I still prefer his original, La Cage aux Folles.)
In spite of this, I honestly tried to approach Dinner for Schmucks with an open mind. I like the casting of Paul Rudd and especially Steve Carell, who—
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