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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Dinner for Schmucks

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Arrogant Wall Street types take a satiric hit in the odd-couple buddy comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" (Paramount). While its underlying message is one of sensitivity and respect, however, director Jay Roach's adaptation of Francis Veber's 1998 French feature "Le Diner de Cons" showcases numerous wayward riffs on topics such as adultery, casual sex and venereal disease.

Like many corporate rat-racers, up-and-coming financial analyst Tim Conrad (Paul Rudd) is out to impress his boss, Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood), and thereby score a promotion. But when Tim receives an invitation to the titular meal—a callous competition Fender organizes periodically to see which of his hotshot underlings can produce the most amusing idiot as a dinner guest and target for secret ridicule—he's appropriately repelled by the idea.

With the better angels of his nature backed up by his live-in, not-ready-for-marriage girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak), Tim resolves to evade the occasion. Until, that is, fate throws him a curveball in the eccentric form of bizarrely naive and nerdy IRS agent Barry Speck (Steve Carell), whom Tim literally runs into while distractedly driving his status-symbol sports car.

Discovering that Barry is an amateur taxidermist who re-creates famous works of art and historical scenes using stuffed mice—the former category unfortunately including Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper," which leads to a bit of slightly impious humor—Tim decides that his new acquaintance is an irresistible godsend and invites him to Fender's feast.

What Tim hasn't reckoned on (though veteran viewers of this sort of comedy well may have) is the ruinous effect Barry's presence in his life will have in the meantime, as his victim's well-intentioned bumbling eventually threatens to derail both Tim's career and his relationship with Julie.

Barry ultimately registers as a good deal less endearing than screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman seem to intend. And his idiot-savant wisdom—for which we're primed by the use of the Beatles' 1967 hit "The Fool on the Hill" as the film's opening theme—amounts to little in the end.

Dubious side stories along the way to a generally positive wrap-up involve Barry's ex-wife—who, we learn, first had an affair with, then deserted him for, his equally off-kilter supervisor, Therman (Zach Galifianakis)—and the sensual stylings of art curator Julie's major client Kieran Vollard (Jemaine Clement) whose "creative process" includes cavorting with, then bedding, female models.

The film contains shadowy rear and partial nudity, cohabitation, much sexual and brief irreverent humor, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and six crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Fidelis of Sigmaringen: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. 
<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

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