This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is all giddy because he’s been invited to a “Dinner for Winners” (though no one has the heart to tell him it’s really a Dinner for Schmucks). He also puts on his 3D glasses to take a gander at some furry spies in Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Finally, he squeals with excitement about the new Zefron film, but then weeps uncontrollably because Universal didn’t screen it in advance for him.
Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the movies podcast? Take a listen below as Kevin welcomes Ryan Gallagher from CriterionCast.com into the Magical Studio in the Sky to take a look at this week’s slate of new releases.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language
Starring: Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Stephanie Szostak, Jemaine Clement and Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Jay Roach
What it’s about: Paul Rudd plays Tim, an up-and-coming executive who is invited to a dinner with the big boss. The catch is everyone is supposed to bring the most pathetic person they could find under the guise of them being extraordinary, then everyone makes fun of them. When Tim runs into a quirky accountant/taxidermist named Barry (Steve Carrell) who makes dioramas of field mice, he thinks he found a winning schmuck. But he never expected that he’d start to become his friend.
What I liked: On the whole, I like Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis, so on the whole, I liked this movie. It is actually the acting in the film that makes things work. Many of the funniest lines are due not really to the content but rather the awkward and almost painfully inappropriate delivery of Carell. He takes things much farther than his stock Michael Scott character from The Office or the dozen or so other films he’s starred in. Second to Brick Tamland in Anchorman, this is Carrell at his most extreme… but it’s a low-key extreme.
Other great performances in this film come from Galifianakis as Carrell’s overly self-important nemesis, and when the two of them literally go head-to-head, it’s really funny. Then there’s Paul Rudd, who has played the straight man before (e.g., I Love You, Man and Role Models), but he shines in this very generous performance, letting Carrell run away with the comedy. But like other great straight men of the past like Oliver Hardy, Dean Martin and Cindy Williams, the funny wouldn’t emerge without them.
And yes, there are some very funny moment and very funny lines. So I did laugh quite a bit.
What I didn’t: As compartmentally funny and entertaining as Dinner for Schmucks is, it’s not a very well written piece. It’s based on a French film, though it doesn’t seem all that European. Rather, it borrows from other awkward situational comedies for schmucks like Planes, Trains and Automobiles and What About Bob? And anyone will see that both of those movies are far superior to Dinner for Schmucks.
Like most movies that are released today, there are moments where the film overstays its welcome. This happens a couple times in Dinner for Schmucks, so it ends up not being the most well balanced film you’ll see this summer.
Finally, as adorable (and remarkably Susan St. James-ish) as Stephanie Szostak is as Rudd’s girlfriend, she’s a real throw-away character that happens to be overly crucial to the story itself. Adorability does not a great love interest make.
Who is gonna like this movie: People who love Steve Carrell and Zach Galifianakis’ awkward situational comedy.
CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE
Rated: PG for animal action (whatever the hell that means) and humor
Starring: Christina Applegate, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes and James Marsden
Directed by: Brad Peyton
What it’s about: When the evil feline Kitty Galore hatches a plan to turn every dog stark raving mad, the super-secret spy network of canines join forces with the super-secret spy network of pussies to take her down. The strike team is led by a failed police dog, a hydrophobic cat and a smart-talking pigeon. Oh, and Chris O’Donnell stumbles through the movie as a human looking for his lost man’s best friend.
What I liked: Like Beverly Hills Chihuahua, G-Force and Alvin and the Chipmunks, you should know exactly what you’re going to get with a movie like this. The cuteness level is off the charts, and it’s the kind of movie that kids are going to love, so that’s a plus. And considering the running time is just a tad north of 80 minutes, it’s totally bearable as a grown-up.
It’s also in 3D, and it’s shot for 3D, which gets a plus in my book rather than having it converted to 3D later like The Last Airbender was.
Finally, I can’t talk about this movie without chuckling at its name. Anyone who knows where the name Kitty Galore comes from can’t help but laugh… and marvel how this got past the censors. Man, are those people a bunch of squares.
What I didn’t: Even though there’s plenty of action and fun 3D special effects, the writing of this film is more in line with Marmaduke and Underdog than G-Force (which I know was ridiculed by many a critic but I found fun and enjoyable). Lots of recycled dog and cat jokes. Lots of puns. Lots of silly gags. Sure, they’ll please a seven year old, but they’re starting to really get tedious.
And finally, while the digital effects look good, some of the practical effects and animatronics look laughable. There’s a real dichotomy in this film of photo-realism and cheap Saturday morning puppetry going on.
Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who love 3D action, have short attention spans and can’t get enough jokes about dogs sniffing each other’s butts.
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
Rated: PG-13 for language including some sexual references, an intense accident scene and some sensuality
Starring: Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Donal Logue, Charlie Tahan and Kim Basinger
Directed by: Burr Steers
What it’s about: Zac Efron hangs up his basketball shoes and decidedly doesn’t cut Footloose in this dramatic turn about a young man heading off to college who has a mysterious connection to his dead brother. When he meets a new girl, he must choose between his nightly game of catch with his brother’s ghost and a real-life relationship.
What I might like: I neither love nor hate Zac Efron, but I do think he has a certain level of acting talent. I’m glad to see that he’s stretching his legs a bit with this film and not dancing around with a basketball again. On the surface, it looks like it could be a touching story if not overplayed, but there’s no guarantee of that.
What I might not: I’m hearing some rocky reviews of this film, with more than one comparing it to a Hallmark movie for the big screen. Add the Nicholas Sparks vibe I’m getting from the movie, and I’ll bet I’ll be rolling my eyes within a half hour of the opening titles.
Who is gonna like this movie: Zefron squealers who want to see his dramatic acting chops.
Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…