The Dinner Game

1998, Movie, NR, 78 mins

Review

DINNER GAME, THE | LE DINER DE CONS
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Scared of sophisticated French cinema? This coarse comedy will restore your confidence. Snooty publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) and his wealthy, elitist friends have devised a competitive pastime that amuses them no end: Once a month they give a dinner party to which each man must bring a guest, the dumbest, most boring jerk he can rustle up. The diner whose guest is voted the biggest dope is declared the winner of that round, and Pierre's guest this month is a doozy: Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret, France's answer to Danny DeVito), a meek civil servant whose hobby is building toothpick models of world monuments. But when Pignon arrives at swanky chez Brochant (complete with view of the Eiffel Tower), he's greeted by chaos. Brochant has put his back out playing golf, and his wife Christine (Alexander Vandernoot) has decamped, in part because she so disapproves of the dinner game. Brochant tries to get rid of his meddling guest, but Pignon insists on staying to help and soon makes a fine mess of things: Christine's ex-boyfriend (Daniel Prevost) is now on the way over, as is Brochant's flaky mistress (Catherine Frot). This stage-bound farce could easily be an American sitcom: It's all slamming doors, eavesdropping and stupid miscommunications, garnished with a heavy-handed helping of comedy of humiliation. The dinner game itself has considerable cruel comic potential, but it's just a set-up designed to facilitate cliched odd-couple comedy: sleek sophisticate Brochant, who's not really as clever as he thinks he is, vs. frazzled simpleton Pignon, who's goodhearted and more perceptive than he's credited with being. Many of writer-director Francis Weber's movies have resurfaced in tacky American versions (including THE BIRDCAGE, PURE LUCK, FATHER'S DAY): This picture is proof that the originals aren't always better. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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