Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Table for One, S'il Vous Plaît

WARNING: This post may or may not progress into an outraged, incoherent rant. Please skip if you don't want to see a rabid francophile at her worst.

When I went to the movies not too long ago, I saw the trailer for this film:

Yes, that is indeed Steve Carell. If he is in this film, then it's gotta be good, right?

Dinner for Schmucks.

Dinner for Schmucks? Wait a minute...I've already seen something like this before. The handsome Tim complained about his bad back. So did Pierre Brochant. Steve Carell stars as Barry the Schmuck. The role of the con* was beautifully carried by Jacques Villeret as the bumbling François Pignon back in 1998. Barry apparently makes "masterpieces" using dead mice. François used matchsticks to make models of la Tour Eiffel and the Concorde. Is it déjà vu?

You bet it is. This is Francis Veber's Le Dîner de Cons!

(Yes, I know it's in French with French subtitles. I could have found a video without French subtitles. Stop griping.)

The French, however, aren't to be fooled. Hell, even the French trailers on Youtube identify this upcoming film as Le Dîner de Cons-US.

I checked the movie's credits. It's there in teeny tiny script. This movie is "inspired" by Francis Veber's film (which was first a play) and...WTF?!

Sacha Baron Cohen is listed next to the Francis Veber as an executive producer??? What the hell?

This cannot be good...If anything, the film will only be inundated by Cohen's inane vulgarities. Cohen is a funny guy and he has some great material, but the idea that the guy who came up with the likes of Borat and Bruno has collaborated writing a classic script for American audiences sends chills down my spine.

The American trailer already demonstrates some major alterations. My brain started turning a few dials to compare the two films. For one thing, the concept of the game seems to remain: the mean guys invite a bunch of idiots to a dinner party to watch them make doofuses of themselves. What is different is the person hosting the game: Tim is doing it to impress his boss into giving him a promotion whereas in the French version, Pierre is the boss and was merely in the game for the spirit of playing it with his boss friends. This change in status only emphasizes how much of an a**hole Pierre really is. Tim was probably cast as the underling to get sympathy from the audience ("aww, he's only doing it 'cause he wants social advancement").

What characters will change? Which ones have been hacked out of the script? Who will be new? Tim apparently is dating a pretty girl. Pierre was married to the very beautiful Christine who was threatening to leave him. Will Barry have a favorite baseball team just like François had a preference for the Auxerrois football team? Who the hell will play the American equivalent of Cheval, François's buddy and the best tax auditor at his job? Is it the crazy-eyed mind reader? No way.

How can this film NOT have a Cheval?! I simply can't fathom it. All of these questions plague me...

Now, you might say so what? Why the hell would I watch a French version when I can see Steve Carell clown around in good ol' plain English? Besides, this film has Steve Carell in it!

Hey, I'm quite fond of Michael Scott, too. After all, he does a great job doing the American version of David Brent. I just tend to distrust movie remakes, particularly the ones that are based or "inspired" on a film that's already well made. Did you know that the hit Three Men and a Baby was a remake of the French Trois Hommes et un couffin? It's true. The French version is way better, by the way. Another of Veber's films has undergone this transformation procedure, I might add. The Birdcage? Nuh-uh; try La Cage aux Folles.

On the other hand, I suppose that I should point the finger at Monsieur Veber himself because he is the one who has the say for allowing these second-hand adaptations. He is responsible for letting others take his original scripts and mutating it to something completely different...

Oh, I dunno. Perhaps I'm overreacting. I suppose that I'll have to go see it before I condemn it as a crappy film. But once Hollywood sinks its fangs into another country's culture, I am not left with high expectations. Steve Carell ain't no Jacques Villeret.

And if Borat dares show his hairy behind in this film, I'll walk out.

Barb the French Bean

*It's French Lesson Time!

The exact literal English translation of con is unprintable (it's the very, very vulgar C-word). I might also add that, like in English, con is not a very polite word. However, it is a noun that the French use without much reservation because they equate its pejorative severity to the likes of "idiot, moron." As I learned, in French, it's not a question of which word is the worst to say but what is the intensity of the context in which it is used. You could easily call your BFF a con just as you would say it to the guy who nearly ran over your first-born child with his SUV (although that incident might yield the more forceful connard to be cried out). This is very different from our anglophone mentality that certain words simply should not be uttered.

Disclaimer: My English Major skillz (yes, with a z) tell me that it would only be fair to state my primary sources. In other words, the links and the videos are not mine, particularly the one posted by MyFrenchTeacher2. Remember, folks, Plagiarism is of the Devil!


  1. You'd think that that they'ed just come up with a totally new idea for a movie once in a while... Not rip off or copy or revise an older movie.

  2. Indeed.

    Although if a book is made into a movie, we often complain that it isn't as good as what was written down. :-P

    -French Bean


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb