What a disheartening spectacle we have in Dinner for Schmucks, the latest comedy since April’s Date Night to squander Steve Carell’s impeccable timing and frantic, Clouseau-like cluelessness.
For better and more often worse, we see in Barry, his latest on-screen buffoon, a character reminiscent of Michael Scott, the deluded desk jockey he plays on NBC’s The Office. Nearly paralyzed by his own stupidity, hopelessly oblivious in every aspect of his modest existence, Barry is a tragic figure, in part because of the pain behind his manic grin, and in part because he’s so easy to despise.
Sacha Baron Cohen, the spectacularly uninhibited gonzo master of put-ons, has been called “the pure, untamed id of movie comedy” and “a genuine comic guerrilla charging right to the front lines of the war against prejudice and sanctimony.” The term “genius” has been applied liberally since Baron Cohen’s Borat (2006) skillfully skewered racism, anti-Semitism and America’s over-developed sense of national pride. Yet his second feature, Brüno, leaves me cold. As social satire, it is boorish and scattershot; as farce, it is obvious and erratic.