It is always nice to go watch a comedy like this, something that hasn’t had great reviews and you expect it to be predictable, and it pleasantly surprises you. Yes, it is predictable and nothing overly special but it does the job it’s meant to do, give you a good laugh and make you feel happy. Steve Carell and Paul Rudd are back together for the first time since Anchorman and they make for two very likeable leads in this remake of a French comedy.
Paul Rudd plays Tim, a man trying to make it big in his work place and take a seat among the higher executives whilst trying to convince the girl he loves to marry him. The opportunity arises for Tim to finally make an impression in his job and move up in the business. But in order to do this he must go to a works dinner in which every employee has to find an idiot to take to the dinner for everyone to make fun of. The person who brings the best idiot gets a promotion. Tim find his idiot in the form of Barry, a simple divorcee who makes artworks and models featuring dead mice. But as soon as he meets Barry, chaos ensues as there are misunderstandings abound and Tim must learn to choose between work and his love life before both are destroyed.
The plot works as a suitable set up for some madcap comedic moments. Director Jay Roach is no stranger to awkward moments of cringe worthy comedy having directed the Meet the Parents movies. He handles the comedy with an expert hand in what can be at times predictable writing. Roach manages to maintain a few surprises despite the material being familiar. Paul Rudd has the straight man role here and he deadpans it very well, considering how he has done some more outrageous characters in the past (Brian Fantana for one). Steve Carell is also one who seems to mix it up between bumbling idiot and more straight performances, although as of late he has played more of the former, but who cares if he plays them so well. Here though his character has a stronger aire of sympathy and vulnerability then the likes of Get Smart and Evan Almighty. His character is a colossal idiot, but you can’t blame him and his character has some actual depth, with the ex-wife back story making you feel genuinely sorry for him. And those pieces of mice artwork are actually quite impressive. In whatever way dead mice can be. This is partly down to Carell who keeps the character annoying where he needs to be but manages to let us never find him annoying enough to not give a damn about him.
The supporting cast is also on top form here. The biggest stand out has to be Jermaine Clement as the French artist Kieran. The character is hilarious with his many bizarre sex antics and egotistical artistic creations. His work on Flight of the Conchords has finally paid off and hopefully this is the start of him breaking into Hollywood as he shows his comedic versatility amongst Hollywood comedy heavy weights like Steve Carell. David Walliams makes a funny cameo, as does fellow British comedian Chris O’Dowd (the Irish guy in The IT Crowd). Zach Galifianakis, the fat guy from The Hangover, essential plays… well the fat guy from The Hangover. It’s a funny character, but would’ve been better if the character wasn’t obviously meant to be filled by him. I am yet to see him do something different, at least Carell did some straight guy roles after Brick in Anchorman. It is still early days for Galifianakis, but he has to careful if he wants a long-lasting career in comedies. Then again, most comedies do need a stupid fat guy in the mix.
The actual said dinner of the title is a slight anti-climax as the rest of the film doesn’t really feel like a build up towards it, which may disappoint some people but the story developes well enough that at some points you forget that the film is actually about a dinner. When it doesn get to the dinner, it does seem to divert too much into slapstick when the previous humour had been quite sensitive and well constructed. The dinner just seems to throw a lot in the mix and end in catastrophe rather than building it up into cringe-worthy moments, and ends rather quickly without really amounting to anything. But what we have here is a film that does the job for a good laugh one Saturday night with mates.