Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Box Office Showdown: Dinner for Schmucks vs. The Other Guys

So this month has been one of battles at the Box Office, which is kind of weird because normally, this kind of thing happens during the summer, where two films are fighting for the top of the charts. A couple of weeks ago we had it happen with The Expandables vs. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The Expendables came out winning because of the nostalgia factor, which was pretty high. That battle is still going on, and The Expendables is still winning, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Scott Pilgrim will have longer legs as time goes by. But this type of thing happens quite often at the box office, two big films from opposing studios premiere on the same day, and then the question pops up: Who will be the victor of the two?

We got another showdown currently going on at the box office between two comedies: Dinner for Schmucks and The Other Guys. Both comedies, both got big comedic stars attached to them. Dinner for Schmucks has Steve Carell and The Other Guys has Will Ferrell. The Other Guys has made close to 100 million so far, while Dinner for Schmucks already stepped out making close to 70 million at the box office. Now, we all know that box office returns do not determine the quality of a film (just look at Transformers 2) so, which of these two comedies was the best, box office numbers not withstanding?

 I'll start this off by saying that I am a huge fan of Will Ferrell. I quote Anchorman (2004) on a regular basis, that movie's raunchy humor really cracks me up! I’ve enjoyed many Farrell movies, like Step Brothers (2008) and Semi-Pro (2008). I was looking forward to The Other Guys in a big way for various reasons. One of them is that Adam McKay was returning as a director and this was the guy who brought us some of Will Farrell’s best movies. So I was thinking that if this guy had done magic with Farrell’s previous films, then The Other Guys was going to be a sure fire laugh fest. Another thing that got my attention was Samuel L. Jackson in a comedy. I’ve always thought he’d be great in one, and the idea of him playing a tough cop really tickled my curiosity. And of course, the simple fact that Farrell was going to be in it, what can I say, I love his particular brand of comedy. So my question is: Why was The Other Guys such a big let down? Why?

Will Farrell plays his character in a way you might not expect. He is the quiet guy, the self righteous dude who plays by the rules and does everything right. Normally, Farrell is wild and out of control in his movies, but not so much on this one. On this one he is responsible, a hard worker, loves his work at the office. He is organized, clean, and has a beautiful wife. For all intents and purposes, Farrell is playing the straight guy. It’s funny seeing him play a tight ass, his performance was the only thing keeping my ass in the theater. Well, that and Eva Mendez's tight dresses. So you know how buddy cop movies go: One plays the straight guy who plays by the rules, the other one plays the wild card. The problem for me with this movie was that Mark Wahlberg was playing the wild card. Wahlberg is good in dramatic roles (like Boogey Nights) but he isnt exactly comedy gold. With a guy like Farrell, they should have had an equally funny actor by his side, someone who would really shine next to him. Someone who could bounce comedic genius with Farrell. Instead we got Wahlberg who seems to know nothing about being funny. For me casting Wahlberg instead of a true comedian next to Farrell was the downfall of this film. Couldn’t they find anyone who had some real comedic talent in them? I mean, I would have preferred some up and coming comic giving it his best, then Wahlberg trying to be funny. It just didn’t work for me, and in part is what brought the film down.

The story itself is kind of a mess that has something to do with Wall Street and investing some money and loosing money and what have you. I’ve never really understood how Wall Street works, to me the people who work there shouting numbers and pulling their hairs out are a bunch of whacko’s playing a game they don’t fully understand themselves. So a movie that revolves around that world made things a bit confusing for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. The film had a subversive vibe to it because essentially its saying Capitalism doesn’t work, it only does one thing and its getting everyone in trouble. Eventually, it's going to blow up in your face. Story gets so confusing that at one point a character has to come up and explain it to us in simple terms: "Point is, I invested some money, and I lost a lot of money for a lot of people" Thanks for clearing that up, cause the movie itself really doesnt do a good job of explaining it on its own.

Not a lot of people were laughing while watching this movie, you’d hear a giggle or two once in a while, but the rest of the time, it was just quiet, which isn’t a good thing during a comedy. Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock's performance are simply cameo’s. They appear for only 10 minutes or so, so one of the big draws for me was over before it started. There was this huge chase sequence, where you could tell the actors where in green screen all the time! It’s the kind of deal where you can tell they are not really driving the car, or they really aren’t on top of that building, or they really aren’t anywhere but on front of a green screen? Sad, sad, sad. Dont know why, but the editing, the sound, and the visual effects weren't that well pulled off either. I dont know what was up with this movie, it just wasnt clicking for me. So, take it from me, this might be one you'll want to watch on DVD.

Dinner for Schmucks on the other hand was funny. I don’t think it was the best comedy ever made or anything like that, but it was funny, and it did make me laugh! Why did it work? Well, I think it was primarily because its Steve Carell being silly, and in my opinion that’s when he is at his best, when he is being silly as hell. On this movie he plays this character who is very lonely, very geeky, and looking for a friend. Dinner for Schmucks actually reminded me of the way that Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy (1996) played out. A lonely individual starving for a little affection, desperately seeking for another human to talk to and be friends with. So when someone shows him just a bit of friendship, they become obsessive. So obsessive, that you’ll feel you are bing harassed into a friendship, like you’ve just became friends with a stalker. That’s how this movie plays out. It also reminded me of What About Bob? (1991) because it has that element of the really annoying guy who comes to ruin the ‘normal’ guys life. Paul Rudd plays the straight guy, who befriends Carell for all the wrong reasons.

Dinner for Schmucks is all about these rich corporate dudes who get together once a year to invite a bunch of weirdo’s for dinner. The crazier the person you invite, the more you will impress your rich stuck up friends, and the more fun you will have that night. All the while making the schmucks feel special. The climactic moment in which all the freaks get together at the dinner table is one of the highlights of the movie. Specially because one of the freaks is played by Zach Galifianakis, the bearded dude from The Hangover. There’s this whole sequence where he and Carell go on a telekinesis battle, which is amazing. And this is probably why this film worked better for me, its Steve Carell which is already awesome in my book and then you put someone like Galifianakis next to him and you’ve struck comedic gold. Which is what The Other Guys didn’t achieve by putting Wahlberg next to Farell.

Steve Carell is so freaking awesome in The Office that I've always thought it was weird that his cinematic endeavors have been so lackluster. With the exception of The 40 Year Old Virgin, most of Carell's films have been terrible. I mean, Get Smart? Barf. Evan Almighty? Double Barf!! Haven't seen Date Night, but Im not betting any money on it. So I went with caution into this one. I went in with my fingers crossed hoping that Carell would finally make a funny film. And thank the cinematic gods it finally happened again! Carell made another funny! Let's hope he keeps it up!

Another good thing that Dinner for Schmucks has going for it is that it was directed by Jay Roach. The guy who directed all the Austin Powers movies, which are all winners in my book. He also did the first two Meet the Parents movies, both of which made me laugh. So what if the formula for Dinner for Schmucks has been done before in other films, it remains a funnier film at the end of the day, and that’s why it has won todays Box Office Showdown. The Other Guys might have made close to 100 million at the box office, but in my book, the schmucks win this time! It’s the funnier film of the two!


Will said...

Hmmm. Dinner for Schmucks did not appeal to me at all. Terrible advertising but I guess it shows you what star power can get you.

The Other Guys was something I was actually interested in seeing DESPITE the fact that I don't like Will Ferrell that much and I am iffy on Wahlberg. I trusted the direction like you did. I like Anchorman and I thought Step Brothers was interesting so. . .The Other Guys was ANTICIPATED. . .but I've been on the fence and I may have fallen off and just wait for video after reading your review. You voiced my silent worries about Wahlberg who I WANT to like but just can't. . .

On another note. . .it's very funny that nostalgia was the winning factor when it came down to The Expendables vs. Scott Pilgrim because Scott Pilgrim is ABOUT nostalgia and The Expendables really had nothing by names to serve nostalgia.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Thats true about Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables, the nostalgia of watching all those 80s action heroes on the screen together pulled audiences in, but the film itself, I dont know if it even felt like an action film from the 80's. It actually looks and feels like a comtemporary film.

Scott Pilgrim is actually very nostalgic towards many an old video game. But I guess the film was aimed at gamers...and wasnt really something that could appeal to THE MASSES if you know what I mean. But Im sure a cult following is sure to emerge.

Dinner for Schmucks isnt the best comedy in the world (that would be Young Frankenstein) but it did its job. It made me laugh, and it used Steve Carell in a better way than any of his previous films have, except for The 40 Year Old Virgin. Also, it has an awesome supporting cast. Made things funnier. Recommend it, for a night of silly fun, I mean, if you want to laugh, I dont think you'll do wrong in checking it out.

The Other Guys on the other hand will do quite the contrary. It fell flat on its ass if you ask me. Like a stale beer, it has promise...but ultimately dissapointed.


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