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In his own adaptation of his play, director Francis Veber’s archaic comedy is one of the most pleasurable films you’ll see over the summer season. It’s a nice antidote if you’re not feeling like those gross blockbuster productions. It’s simple and deliciously French. The comedy of errors has its beginnings by noting the original French title, “Le Diner de cons”, which roughly means that a group of affluent, smart-alec Parisian men gather for a weekly dinner in which they have to invite an “idiot” to the table.
These people are never clued in as to what’s happening, and they are meant to humiliate themselves. The man who brings the most idiotic wins the night. Jacques Villeret is Francois Pignon, supposedly a world champion idiot by these men’s standards. Arrogant book publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) thinks he has struck gold when a friend of his meets Pignon on a train. Pignon, a tax official by day, insists on showing him photographs of his matchstick replicas of famous structures, including the Eiffel Tower. Therefore, Brochant invites Pignon to his house prior to the idiots’ dinner. Things turn sour for Brochant when he hurts his back playing golf and his wife Christine (Alexandra Vandermoot) leaves him. Brochant wants to put off the dinner until next week, and goes to escort Pignon out until he inures his back further, Pignon has to call the doctor but calls Brochant’s mistress Marlene (Catherine Frot) by mistake. After that, it’s one mishap after another as Pignon insists on staying in the house to help Brochant deal with his problems. One instance even results in Pignon’s friend, chief tax auditor Juste (Francis Huster) becoming involved to join the hilarious moments. What we get is really the “idiot’s revenge”.
The screwball nature of the second half of the film is well executed. The timing is excellent and the lead roles are terrific. Nearly all the action takes place in Brochant’s apartment, which can be a bit stagy. But the madcap antics don’t make it so obvious. The performance of Jacques Villeret is excellent as Francois Pignon because he looks idiotic – his mannerisms and expressions make you laugh around Brochant’s arrogant misfortunes. Thierry Lhermitte and Alexandra Vandermoot give solid support. The script is witty and the characters are real. It leaves behind many recent stupid American attempts at similar humour, namely “Dumb and Dumber”. Director Francis Veber does a wonderful job to showcase French farce, and it will be quite an exercise for Dreamworks, in acquiring the English language rights, to re-do The Dinner Game to the right satisfaction.