“Dinner for Schmucks” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

August 13, 2010

A remake of a French comedy ( The Dinner Game ), Dinner for Schmucks (starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd), is based on a cruel premise, competing executives inviting “idiots” to dinner to be made fun of; yet it manages to stick to humanistic values, while providing riotous humor.

I was lured to the movie by a media query. A reporter for AolNews sought my opinion of pet psychic Ellen Kohn—who claims, I kid you not, that she can not only psychically communicate with animals but channel the spirits of reincarnated pets as well. (My opinion of such psychics, namely that they tend to be “fantasy prone,” can be obtained here .)

During my interview, I learned that Schmucks featured a pet psychic as one of the miraculous people being served—and served up—for dinner. I was unprepared for, and cannot do justice to, the hilarity with which the film’s “Madame Nora” (played by Octavia Spencer) is set into action when her lobster dinner is placed before her. Her rendition of the creature’s envisioned surprise, building agony, and release should earn the actress an Academy Award for “Best Channeling of a Cooked Crustacean” for 2010.

One wonders if she, or the scriptwriter who created her character, might have been influenced by Ellen Kohn. The self-styled “animal communicator” (AolNews notes) has performed such services as “getting a finicky iguana to eat and counseling a horse prone to anxiety attacks.”

Truth is as strange as fiction in this case, and Dinner for Schmucks is a banquet of recognizably delightful “idiots.” As it happens, however, it is the competitive executives who are exposed by their own heartlessness as the real schmucks.

Rating: Three wooden nickels (out of four)

Three Nickels