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"THE DINNER GAME"
(1998) (Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild None Extreme None None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Minor None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Mild None Moderate Mild Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A man's attempt to use another, supposedly stupid man as the butt of a meanspirited yuppie dinner game backfires and leads to his life comically unraveling.
PLOT:
Pierre Brochant (THIERRY LHERMITTE) is a French publisher who's worried that he won't be able to find an idiot in time for a dinner party that he and his yuppie pals hold every Wednesday night. The "idiot" is part of a dinner game they play where each participant competes by trying to find the stupidest or most boring person imaginable and then bringing them to the party for a bit of undisclosed show and tell.

Pierre thinks he's lucked out when a friend informs him of Francois Pignon (JACQUES VILLERET), a nerdy, middle-aged account at the French Ministry. While that alone could qualify his find, Pierre is more interested in the fact that Francois builds elaborate scale models of famous landmarks and monuments -- with nothing more than matchsticks -- and is more than willing to discuss his hobby in detail with anyone who will listen.

To Pierre, he's got a winner. To Pierre's wife, Christine (ALEXANDRA VANDERNOOT), this meanspirited, weekly game has finally pushed her over the edge and she leaves him, with his recently thrown-out back, just before Francois arrives. Thinking his back will prevent them from attending the party, Pierre is ready to cancel. Upon meeting Francois, however, who's arrived believing his guest only wishes to publish a book of his hobby, Pierre tries to get ready, but only hurts his back even worse.

Trying to help and unaware of Pierre's ulterior motives, Francois mistakenly calls the publisher's mistress, Marlene (CATHERINE FROST), instead of the doctor and sets into motion a series of events that begin spiraling out of control. Soon, Christine learns of her husband's adulterous ways that eventually leads to Pierre and Francois being visited by her old boyfriend and coauthor, Just Leblanc (FRANCIS HUSTER), as well as Francois' buddy, Cheval (DANIEL PRÈVOST), an all- seeing tax auditor.

As Pierre tries to find and then reconcile Christine, he must not only contend with a sudden houseful of unexpected guests, but also with Francois who, despite his best intentions, repeatedly makes the situation worse than it already is.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of foreign comedies, it's highly unlikely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • THIERRY LHERMITTE is a French publisher who, along with his buddies, is involved in a meanspirited game of trying to find the stupidest or most boring person and then comparing them to other similar "finds." While he never gets to that part, he's repeatedly quite mean to Francois, and we learn that he's having an affair and has some unreported artwork that he hides from a tax auditor.
  • JACQUES VILLERET is a nerdy, middle-aged account who has a hobby of building scale models out of matchsticks. Unaware of his role in the never visited party, he tries to remedy situations he goofs up, but fails. Nonetheless, he ultimately enacts an unintentional revenge on his tormentor.
  • ALEXANDRA VANDERNOOT plays Pierre's wife who's finally had enough of her husband's mean and philandering ways.
  • CATHERINE FROST plays Pierre's mistress, a reported nymphomaniac, although no signs of that are present.
  • FRANCIS HUSTER plays Pierre's friend and former boyfriend of Christine's who tries to help him get her back.
  • DANIEL PRÈVOST plays Francois' buddy, an eagle-eyed tax auditor who briefly uses strong profanity and illegally gives the men a phone number belonging to someone being audited, all in exchange for a meal.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    The domino effect gets the full farcical treatment with Francis Veber's "The Dinner Game." Having nothing to do with the fear of communism's spread or even the influence of a popular delivery pizza on your waistline, this French film -- obviously based on Veber's original stage play, "Le Diner De Cons" -- is instead a comedy of errors. With just one lapse of better judgement toppling the first domino, the fun of the film lies with seeing how and where the adjacent game pieces will fall.

    Like many of writer/director Veber's other French films that have been remade into American pictures -- including "The Birdcage," "Quick Change" and "Father's Day" to name a few -- there's already talk that this 1998 film has been earmarked for a similar Hollywood makeover.

    One can easily see why Veber has become a content source for American movies. Although this film and his others are rarely or never outrageously hilarious, they are constantly amusing throughout and contain universal themes and plots that can easily be adapted to whatever society or culture wishes to retell them. While you probably won't "bust a gut" from hearty laughter while watching Veber's films, they should keep most viewers smiling from start to finish.

    Of course for this film, some of that will depend on one's tolerance for the comic buffoon/foil role. Much like Rowan Atkinson's "Bean" character, the part of Francois is that of a well-intentioned but ultimately bungling character, and the humor originates from the mistakes he makes along with their unintended consequences.

    As such, while Jacques Villeret's performance isn't of the same irritating caliber as Atkinson's -- or that of Jim Carrey or Jeff Daniels in "Dumb and Dumber" (although all would have been fun guests at such a dinner) -- it's still the type of role and related behavior that some people simply cannot stand.

    Others, however, will probably enjoy French actor Villeret ("Cat and Mouse," "Robert and Robert") and his decidedly more human -- and vulnerable -- take on his character. At times his character's overeagerness gives him the qualities for which his callous host is obviously salivating, but just when you're ready to write him off as exactly that sort of caricature, Villeret brings some depth and true emotion to him.

    Even so, for all of the occasional sad-eyed vulnerability that immediately endears him to the audience, Villeret -- just like an excitable puppy -- switches right back into the overbearing and overeager character. That split personality effect works quite well and obviously gives Villeret the best character the film has to offer.

    As the soulless "villain," Thierry Lhermitte ("An Indian in the City," "Les Bronzés"), also delivers a good performance, although neither he nor his hidden plan is as malicious as say, Aaron Eckhart's character and his "game" in Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men." Nonetheless, the character and his unsavory plan are present simply to be overturned by his comic foil and Lhermitte near perfectly plays the part.

    For the film to succeed as a farce, the adversarial chemistry between the two leads needs to be played just right and both Lhermitte and Villeret are perfect together with the former obviously playing the irritated "straight man" to the latter. As such, the best scenes come from Francois' attempts to help Pierre via several necessary telephone calls. Whether posing as someone else and/or simply trying to deliver pre-rehearsed lines, Francois obviously always goofs up and thus insures that the comedic dominos keep tumbling.

    That praise aside, the proceedings occasionally feel a bit strained and sometimes the humor and its timing aren't executed as well as they should be. The film also suffers a bit from predominantly taking place in just one setting -- Pierre's home -- and is obviously a byproduct of the story beginning its life as a stage play.

    Other theatrical remnants are also present, including some momentary observational asides -- most from Pierre -- where a character briefly comments about another, but presumably only to the audience. Such moments sound artificial here (even for a farce), are somewhat distracting and easily could have been omitted from this cinematic adaption without any problems.

    Never hilarious but generally amusing, this French farce is mostly enjoyable and entertaining. While its style of humor may be a bit too reserved for American audiences weaned on domestic, over-the-top comedy that itself is foreign to the more restrained and subtle material that's presented here, fans of farcical humor will probably enjoy the offering. We did, and thus give "The Dinner Game" a 6.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this PG-13 rated French comedy. Profanity is heavy due to several uses of the "f" word, along with other profanities and colorful phrases (all appearing in English subtitles). Due to the contestants' attitudes and their malicious and meanspirited game where supposed "idiots" or fools are invited to a dinner to unknowingly be judged about whom is the dumbest or most boring, the bad/disrespectful attitudes category rates as an extreme.

    Beyond that, some brief sexually related comments and some drinking, however, the rest of the film's categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content. As always, however, should you be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • People drink beer in a bar and others have drinks in a restaurant.
  • Christine gets Pierre a glass of Scotch.
  • Participants and their guests have drinks at the dinner party Pierre never attends.
  • Pierre brings out some wine for Cheval's visit, but then mixes vinegar with it to make it taste like cheap wine. Pierre, Leblanc and Francois then taste it, and later Cheval takes a sip of it.
  • Marlene has a drink.
  • Pierre pours himself a drink and there's a comment about him mixing prescription drugs and alcohol.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • None.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Pierre obviously has an extreme case of both for the following: Participating in this game of competing against his buddies to find the stupidest or most boring person (saying that "idiots are fair game"), making fun of such people and continuously being mean to Francois, cheating on his wife, having stolen Christine from his friend in the past, and for having unreported artwork that he has to hide from the tax auditor.
  • His barely seen buddies also have both for likewise participating in the game.
  • Pierre's doctor admits that when he was younger he played a similar game where the participants brought the ugliest women to a party (a "dog contest").
  • Pierre refers to his place of work (and the women who work there) as a "bunny hutch."
  • Cheval has both for disclosing personal information of someone he's auditing to Pierre and the others in exchange for a free meal.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • None.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases (in English subtitles): "F*ck offs," "Go f*ck yourself," "Holy sh*t," "D*ckhead," "Go to hell," "Idiot," "Bastard," "Turds," "Nut" (crazy person), "Dolt," "Sap" and "Cluck."
  • The film's plot may inspire some kids to play a similar game of inviting those they consider ugly, stupid, etc... to a party only to make fun of them.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • Some comically tense music plays in one scene.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • (In English subtitles): At least 2 "f" words, 3 "s" words, 1 sexual term ("screwing"), 1 slang term involving male genitals ("d*ckhead"), 1 slang term for breasts ("boobs"), 7 asses (all used with "hole"), 5 hells, 5 damns, and 2 uses of "My God" and 1 use of "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • When Pierre hears that Marlene is coming over, he states that all he currently needs is a nymphomaniac, causing Francois to ask, "She's a nympho too?"
  • Francois asks Pierre, "You sleep with all of your authors?"
  • Pierre, thinking Christine has gone to another man, says, "My wife is with a deadly sex fiend."
  • Cheval tells Francois that another man "likes big boobs and hates hairy legs."
  • A call is made to a man's house to see if Christine is in his bed. That man then states that he's "screwing" another man's wife and not Christine.
  • We see a few brief glimpses of one of Pierre's classic art sculptures, a male showing full frontal nudity.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Christine leaves Pierre and says that she may never return, while Francois admits that his wife left him two years earlier.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The planned "dinner" game of finding and then presenting people these men believe to be stupid and/or boring.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A man is accidently hit in the face by a boomerang that he threw.
  • Christine drives through a yellow light and gets hit by another car (she suffers a concussion).



  • Reviewed July 9, 1999 / Posted July 30, 1999

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