Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I just don't find Francis Veber's brand of French farce all that funny. "La Cage aux Folles"? Feh. "Le Jouet"? Nice try. "Les Comperes"? Whatever.
"The Dinner Game" seems to be more of the same. The writer-director's new effort is about a club of Parisian yuppie socialites who gather monthly for a dinner at which they compete to see who can bring the biggest idiot.
The concept isn't a bad one, but the picture never follows through. With that ripe set-up, all Veber delivers is set piece about a newly recruited snob (Thierry Lhermitte), invited at the last minute, who is desperately seeking a presentable dimwit for the dinner.
Most of the comedy comes as this fellow's karma catches up with him the night before the bash. His wife leaves, he hurts his back, and the only person showing him sympathy is his chosen victim (Jacques Villeret) -- a nervous, loquacious, rolly-polly accountant, obsessed with making match stick models of famous monuments -- who has ineptly come to his aid and proceeds to make matters worse on nearly every front.
While the mean-spirited sitcom isn't entirely unpalatable, many of its laughs fall flat due to the movie's poker-faced tone.
As a foreign film, "The Dinner Game" may feel unusual or exotic in some way, but in fact Francis Veber is the most Hollywood of French filmmakers, cranking out one lowest-common-denominator comedy after another, most of them immediately picked up for American remakes without much of an effort to improve upon them. His other middling Hollywood redueax include "Quick Change," "Three Fugitives" and "The Man With One Red Shoes," and DreamWorks has purchased this one as another Robin Williams vehicle.
Veber is no auteur, and "The Dinner Game" hasn't any more substance or humor than his other fare.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 15th April 1998
Box Office Worldwide: $78.6M
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films Inc.
Production compaines: Gaumont, EFVE, TF1 Films Production, TPS Cinéma
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Francis Veber
Starring: Thierry Lhermitte as Pierre Brochant, Jacques Villeret as François Pignon, Francis Huster as Juste Leblanc, Daniel Prévost as Lucien Cheval, Alexandra Vandernoot as Christine, Catherine Frot as Marlène Sasseur, Edgar Givry as Jean Cordier, Christian Pereira as Dr Sorbier