Dinner for Schmucks

Composed By: Theodore Shapiro

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            In Dinner for Schmucks, Paul Rudd plays Tim, an up-and-coming executive who has just received his first invitation to a monthly dinner event hosted by his boss.  Dinner for Idiots promises bragging rights to the one executive who comes to dinner with the biggest idiot he can find.  At first, Tim decides to blow it off, but when he meets Barry (Steve Carell), an IRS employee whose hobby is building taxidermy mouse dioramas, Tim can’t resist inviting him to the dinner.  Unfortunately, what starts out as a fun joke soon sends Tim’s life on a downward spiral.

            The soundtrack of Dinner for Schmucks is composed by Theodore Shapiro.  Beginning his career as a classically trained composer after undergraduate studies at Brown University and earning a Masters at Julliard, things for Shapiro started off serious enough.  Over the years, however, Theodore Shapiro’s repertoire began to include musical compositions for comedies, including such well-known films as Tropic Thunder, I Love You Man, Old School, Marley & Me, The Devil Wears Prada and more.

            The Dinner for Schmucks Soundtrack contains a rather distinct and unusual sounding comedic theme that appears throughout the album.  Theodore Shapiro explains this theme as a representation of Barry: “The character of Barry Speck, played by Steve Carell, is a truly unique creation, a singularly weird and lovely man.  The score to the film had to capture those same qualities.  Accordion, bass harmonica, ukulele, marimba, upright bass, and an out-of-tune upright piano form the core of the ensemble, and the result is something that I hope Barry would enjoy.”  The use of these out of the ordinary instruments helps lend a unique sound to the album that is both unusual and comedic. 

            Despite the comedic element of the film, there are moments when things seem a bit mysterious or somber and these moments have a classical feel that are no doubt brought about by the composer’s early training.  These tracks in particular feel as if they come from an entirely different story than those containing Barry’s theme and will have the listener wondering just what is going on in the scenes these tracks were composed for.

            The Dinner for Schmucks Soundtrack includes one original song by Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche called Dear Laughing Doubters.  The song is sung by an individual who marches to his own tune, never caring what other people think of him.  It’s a celebration of one’s uniqueness and a message to the listener to be happy with themselves despite what others think about them.  The song has a Beatles feel to it and is an excellent addition to the musical score on the soundtrack.  Too bad there weren’t more songs like this on the album.

            All told, the Dinner for Schmucks Soundtrack did have a rather unique sound and a very likable song, but it seemed to drag on forever.  In fact, I found myself wondering if it would ever end.  I wonder if the album wouldn’t be better served excluding some of the more repetitive tracks.  That being said, Theodore Shapiro may be a classically trained composer, but he thinks enough out of the box to be successful at comedic film scoring.  Despite the fact that scoring comedic films is his specialty, he still finds a way to make each album a unique entity.  I enjoyed enough of the Dinner for Schmucks Soundtrack to recommend checking it out if only for its unique sound. 


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