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By Anthony Miele | September 27, 1999

Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) and his yuppie friends have a weekly ritual they call “The Idiot Dinner” in which each invites the biggest buffoon, bore, or boob they can find to dinner under false pretenses. There, as if showing off a pet, they encourage these eccentric misfits to regale the gathering with unwitting displays of their dimwittedness, much to the amusement of their cruel hosts. Monsieur Brochant has a sure winner in Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), an affable tax office employee and, as he’s hair trigger-quick to demonstrate, an accomplished model maker who recreates such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge in wooden match sticks. Brochant’s invited the oblivious Pignon over for a getting-to-know-you drink. Unfortunately, however, the lout’s thrown out his back and can’t make the dinner. Even worse, his wife, tired of his juvenile behavior, walks out on Brochant, leaving the helpless cretin stuck entertaining his exhausting guest. Before long, the increasingly desperate Brochant has enlisted the well-meaning but hopelessly, well, idiotic Pignon in a series of ever-more convoluted ruses to get his wife back. As things are wont to do in a silly farce such as this one, every step the mismatched odd couple takes backfires until Brochant gradually finds himself at odds with his wife, his obsessive nymphomaniac mistress, and — gulp — the tax office.
“The Dinner Game” is just a plain old fun movie. Villeret’s an endearingly hopeless fellow; the perfect foil for Lhermitte’s smarmy Brochant. Writer/director Francis Veber, meanwhile, has the good sense to step back and let his actors and clever script carry this titter-fest along. While it lags a bit in the middle, victimized by a repetitious pattern of events, Veber nicely provides enough rope for Brochant to hang himself for our amusement. Best of all, just when the film threatens to go all soft and preachy with one of those “who’s the real idiot?” speeches, Veber thankfully and wisely resists the urge for a sappy Hollywood ending. Brochant is an irredeemable scumbag and Pignon, well-intentioned and good-natured as he is, remains a world class idiot to the end. And an idiot is exactly what you’ll be if you don’t check out “The Dinner Game.”

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