Just how difficult has career advancement gotten in the 21st century? In Dinner for Schmucks — based on the French movie The Dinner Game — Tim (Paul Rudd) is desperate to get ahead in his career, but the only way to do so is to curry favor with his boss, who likes nothing better than to throw dinner parties where his execs bring along out-and-out idiots as their very special guests. Fortunately, Tim's found a perfect candidate in IRS employee Barry (Steve Carell). Unfortunately, that means Tim is going to be spending quite a bit of time with a guy whose intellectual engagement with the world doesn't rise much above giggling at monkeys on the TV.
We feel his pain. Hey, sometimes even the best of friends behave in ways that prompt a strong desire to be swallowed up by the earth. Moviemakers love capturing those "can I please disappear now?" moments and we quite enjoy watching them ... from a distance. Here are our 10 favorites. (Feel free to forward this to your friends, family, coworkers — anyone you'd like to send a message to.)
10. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Where no stoic humanoid from the future is supposed to go.
Just try going incognito in contemporary America when your associate is a pointy-eared alien with a stubborn resistance to Earthly social graces. When Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner
) and crew have to go back in time to retrieve a couple of whales (long story), he discovers that, while his science officer and long-time friend Spock (Leonard Nimoy
) might be great for confronting the world-devouring threats of tomorrow, drop the Vulcan down into San Francisco circa 1986 and he becomes completely immune to the niceties of human behavior. You know, little things, inconsequential things — things like no touchies on the bus, or the fact that there are certain places in the aquarium (such as the whale tank) that are simply off-limits to visitors.
9. The Producers (1968)
Actually, Churchill was much more nimble at the Charleston than you'd expect.
Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars
) is a playwright motivated by a higher cause. Franz Liebkind also happens to be a Nazi. You might think that that would be a ticklish situation for producers Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel
) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder
), who are schmoozing the fascist in order to buy his play, Springtime for Hitler
. Fortunately, the two follow the basic rules of show-biz negotiation: You drink the schnapps; you sing the song; and you agree with everything your rabid anti-Semite says. And who knows? Maybe there were depths to Hitler that have yet to be appreciated. Uh, no. No, there weren't.
8. Roxanne (1987)
Pay no attention to the schnoz behind the bushes.
You can take nobility too far, but don't tell that to C.D. Bales (Steve Martin
). He's crushing seriously on the beautiful and sensitive Roxanne (Daryl Hannah
), but feels that, given his "Cyranose"
the woman would be happier with the young, handsome Chris (Rick Rossovich
). Ever the gallant poet, C.D. is willing to cede the prize to the hunk. The problem is that Chris — clearly not the sharpest crayon in the box — seems to have culled his courtship rituals exclusively from Axe Body Spray commercials. Solution: An alliance between the bod and the brain, with C.D. spilling his heart through Chris' presence. Because, oh yeah, that's gonna work out great
7. Silver Streak (1976)
We're all brothers under the shoe polish?
Grover Muldoon (Richard Pryor
) only has himself to blame. He's trying to sneak falsely accused, fugitive murderer George Caldwell (Gene Wilder
, again) onto the cross-country train, the Silver Streak, so that George can track down the true culprits of the crime. To get the job done, Grover decides to improvise a disguise with the only tools available. A quick trip to railroad station's men's room, a hasty tutorial in urban sangfroid, and, voila, instead of plain old George we have ... well, plain old George, but one that Spike Lee
would wish to have a looooong talk
6. Monsters Inc. (2001)
I'll have the California roll and three gallons of industrial-strength decontaminant, please.
Bottom line: You shouldn't be bringing kids to up-market restaurants. That's especially true in the alternate universe of Monstropolis, where human children are regarded pretty much as the walking, talking equivalent of 15 pounds of Strontium-90. Thus, Mike's (Billy Crystal
) plans for a romantic night at the ultra-exclusive Harryhausen's don't get far once roommate and coworker Sulley (John Goodman
) tumbles in with a duffel bag full of utterly adorable, thoroughly unmitigated, terror. Bad enough to walk away from your dining experience with a case of food poisoning; getting the full, Silkwood
treatment is just a straight-up bummer.
5. Batman (1989)
Too bad 1-800flowers.com got rid of its Gas Grenade bouquet.
Mixed blessings for Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger
): It's flattering when you're the focus of two suitors; not so much when one of them is the pathological Joker (Jack Nicholson
) and the other — the brooding and mysterious Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton
) — goes seriously off the rails in response. Clearly there's a dynamic here that goes beyond romantic rivalry (formative traumas?). Still it's not the kind of thing any sane human being wants to get in the middle of, much less an intrepid photographer still trying to sort out her feelings about a certain caped crusader.
4. Rain Man (1988)
Definitely, definitely wanna throttle that guy.
All Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise
) wants is to remain the success-driven, Type-A douchebag he's always been. Unfortunately, in order to get what he feels is his just share of the family inheritance, he has to ferry his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman
) to Los Angeles. That's more effort than any self-centered turd can tolerate. Not only is the take-control Charlie losing complete command of the scenario, he's running the serious risk of becoming an empathetic human. Never mind.
3. The Odd Couple (1968)
For a while, he was being tracked by a National Geographic sedate-and-tag team.
Sorry, Einstein, it appears Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau
) has discovered a functional example of the unified irritant theory, and it turns out to be his so-called friend Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon
). There's no social situation that the fussy hypochondriac can't ruin — and no public space he can't commandeer by complaining incessantly, then bellowing like a territorial beast. It's not really that Oscar is all that concerned with his public image — his fashion coordinator is Sergio deWhateverIGrabinMyCloset, after all — it's just that he doesn't want to be associated with the first man to provoke a buffalo stampede in a coffee shop.
2. The In-Laws (1979)
You would've thought Raid had this market locked down by now.
It takes his daughter's impending marriage to introduce uptight dentist Sheldon Kornpett (Alan Arkin
) to his nemesis: the amiable enigma who is Vincent Ricardo (Peter Falk
). It's not just the man's incredible anecdotes and abrupt mood swings that get to Sheldon, it's that the doctor seems to be the only one who can detect just how full of compost the guy is. That, and the fact that Vin's blithe attitude and shady friends will sooner or later likely get them both killed.
1. Goodfellas (1990)
In fact, we suspect Emmett Kelly would've been a lot funnier if he had started bashing heads.
There are some people you shouldn't be associated with, and then there are some who are a flat-out threat to your health and well-being. Wannabe Mafioso Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci
), bless his malignant little soul, is both. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta
) has hung around with the thug long enough to know the dangers, but the fact is that with a loose-cannon like Tommy, the triggers can shift in a fraction of a second. Fortunately, Tommy isn't prone to wanting to take his disputes outside. Unfortunately, that just means he goes off right where he's sitting.