If you’re heading off with a few bucks in your pocket to see Steve Carell’s new movie, “Dinner With Schmucks” because the clips you saw of it on TV or the movie review you read made it look like a laff-a-minute “Dumb & Dumber,” you might want to rethink your plans.
Like so many comedies, the filmmakers seemed to have gone off the mark. Or, perhaps the movie was hijacked right out from under their noses by Steve Carell. The film dragged endlesly through the set-up, had a few chuckles during the final dinner-of-the-title sequence (which, instead of building with unrelentless comic mayhem, remained unfocused, often becalmed and flat, whhich was a singular failure of direction considering the amount of goofy talent that was in the scene), then just dribbled off into the typical boy-helps-boy-get-girl schmaltz.
And I suspect all of that happened because the writers and director thought they were dealing with Jerry Lewis in full crazy-meltdown mode. They weren’t. They were dealing with Inspector Clouseau, who never played a schmuck or a fool or an idiot. Instead, he was deadpan serious, which is what made him so funny.
Ditto Steve Carell’s character in this movie. He’s not a schmuck to be laughed at but a true “innocent” naïf-- Dr. Plangloss with stuffed mice-- who inadvertently causes chaos all around him but who has enough moral sense to constantly try to fix the things he’s ruined, thereby making them again all snowball into a much, much worse state.
While the premise of the film, a remake of a French film, was intended to be cruel (rich amoral Wall-Street types compete to see who can bring the biggest idiots to dinner so they can all laugh at them), Carell hijacked the whole premise by making his character so likeable (hard to hate puppies and small babies who make messes) and so well-intentioned that you didn’t laugh at him so much as laugh at his bumbling, then held your breath, then cheered him on as he attempted to set things right. Plus, as played, he was heroic – a genuinely nice guy in a hard world who still dreams his wonderful dreams and triumphs in the end. (Think of the comic possibilities if Carell had had the courage to make his character so disagreeable that the audience would pray for somebody to toss him out a window. ) Meanwhile the Wall Street Mean Guys were so unfunny they weren’t really even mean. Just annoying.
Thus the mismatch. I think the filmmakers thought they were serving satiric hot chili, which the movie ad boys mistakenly peddled as comic mayhem, while their star Steve Carell switched the menu on them and served up a deliciously sweet piece of pie completely at odds with the stated menu.
Well, that happens when you don’t keep a sharp eye on the cook or the soup.
Heading for L.A.?
Check out www.youtube.com/group/urbanlight (look for LACMA at night or LACMA light forrest clips) for a gander at Chris Burden’s art installation piece in front of the L.A. County Museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd. The piece is accessible from the street all night long and it’s absolutely beautiful. A giant piece of “sculpture” that invites a childlike interaction with your body within the space. Come dance! Come dance! It’s too cool. And is now on my "to do" list.
El Chorro Dog Park (at El Chorro Regional Park off Hwy 1 across from Cuesta College, at the back of the park, past the beautiful new Botanical Gardens) now has a new entryway. Made possible by a donation from Chris Boyle in memory of her Aunt, Lee Boyle, it was constructed by Richard Barrett, R.J. Barrett Construction, with help from dog park volunteers. There’s still some detailing to be done and the dog park sign to be finished, but grab your pooch and come check it out. Like Burden’s “Urban Light” installation, the gateway just feels good to walk through and under.
The dog park will be having its annual fund-raising party Sunday, Oct 3 for the formal ribbon cutting, but meantime, bring your dog out for a visit and a walk though the new gateway.
Finally, here’s Your Sunday Dog Poem
This poem by Karen Shepard from “Doggerel; Poems about Dogs” Everyman’s Library Pocket Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
I’ll eat that.