It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The truly goofy comes shrouded in innocence. If a man is trying to be goofy, it's just an act that quickly grows old. But if he lacks the slightest notion of his peculiarity, there's the secret. The blissful ignorance of Barry Speck is beyond pitiful and ascends to a kind of nobility. He's one of those who truly doesn't have a clue.
In “Dinner for Schmucks,” a group of arrogant rich men use him as part of an elaborate joke, but the joke is on them. You can't insult a man who is always happy to be just exactly who he is. In the film, the millionaires have a dinner party every year that is a secret joke: Each guest invites another guest who is, whether he realizes it or not, in a contest to determine which guest is the biggest idiot. This is plain cruel.
“Dinner for Schmucks” was inspired by Francis Veber's French film “The Dinner Game,” which was an enormous hit in France but seemed a shade on the mean side. The genius of this version depends on the performance by Steve Carell, who plays Barry Speck as a man impervious to insult and utterly at peace with himself. He's truly a transcendent idiot.
The film's hero is Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd), an ambitious young man dreaming of promotion to the corner office. His boss is Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), who invites him to bring a guest to the dinner. This chance to hobnob with his boss' powerful friends is attractive, but at first Tim says no; he has an important date scheduled with his fiancee Julie (Stephanie Szostak). Then he meets Barry, a man whose hobby is populating enormous dollhouses and model landscapes with elaborately costumed dead mice. Barry is too good to pass up. He looks like a sure winner.