Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 16, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Dinner Game

Current Status
In Season
Thierry Lhermitte
Foreign Language, Comedy

We gave it a B

The low-watt heroes of Dumb and Dumber would be welcome at the table in The Dinner Game, Francis Veber’s broad comedy that proves that a talent for feature-length idiot humor is not limited to the Farrelly brothers. In Veber’s enjoyable forehead smacker of a French farce, the smugly sophisticated Pierre (Thierry Lhermitte) must find an unsuspecting dolt to bring to a party, at which he and his yuppie-scum friends will compete to see who has snagged the biggest boor. Pierre settles on Francois (Jacques Villeret), a clod whose hobby is building monuments out of matchsticks.

As is required by convention, Francois proceeds to disrupt Pierre’s life, Mr. Bean-style, in ever more punishing ways, leaving the mocker humbled and the mockee with his own impervious dignity intact: A satisfying laugh-to-cringe ratio rests on the precarious balance between earnestness and mayhem. And these two thick-skinned fools pull it off lustily. The veteran farceur Veber, who originally wrote The Dinner Game for the stage (the French title, Le diner de cons, more pointedly conveys the sense of a gathering of jerks), moves his nincompoops around with an economy you’ve got to admire, no matter how jerky the jokes. B

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