The Dinner Game (Le Diner De Cons) (1999)

Rating: ★★★★☆

If you’ve only seen the unfortunate American remake of the 1998 French comedy “Le Diner de Cons” then someone owes you an apology. The usually reliable cast of fine comedic talents in “Dinner for Schmucks” couldn’t save a bad and somewhat mean-spirited script.

The original is a different story. Written and directed by Francis Veber, “Le Diner de Cons” (released in the U.S. as The Dinner Game) is one of the most popular French films of all time, and with good reason. Starring Thierry Lhermitte as snobbish publisher Pierre Brochant, and the late Jacques Villeret as hapless idiot François Pignon, “Le Diner de Cons” (literally, “dinner for idiots”) had its start in the theater. Based on a play of the same name by writer/director Veber, it enjoyed a run of over nine hundred performances, with Villeret in the role of Pignon during the last year of the play’s tenure. This marathon of a dress rehearsal combined with the comedic talents of its stars and the brilliant script made for a smooth, almost flawless movie.

Brochant is one of a group of successful Parisian businessmen who meet once a week at a special dinner, where each of them brings a guest to be secretly ridiculed by the others. Pignon is a government drone at the tax office, whose hobby is building matchstick replicas of famous landmarks, his sad sack expressions and eagerness to impress sure to give Brochant bragging rights for having invited the biggest idiot. Fate, of course, has other plans and Brochant injures his back during a round of golf. Before he can call Pignon and postpone the dinner, Pignon shows up at Brochant’s fabulous apartment with photographs of his matchstick models, excited at the prospect of having a book published about his work (this was the ruse that Brochant used to get Pignon to the dinner). As the evening develops the eager to please Pignon manages to destroy Brochant’s love life, put him in danger of an audit from the tax office, and perhaps worse, unknowingly turns the tables so that Brochant and his pals are revealed to be the true idiots.

Most of the action takes place in Brochant’s apartment. Pignon mistakes Brochant’s wife (the lovely Alexandra Vandernoot) for the mistress, and shoo’s her away from the entrance to the apartment in order to protect his new-found friend. Concerned that the news of his infidelity has driven his wife into the arms of a known sex-addict, Brochant enlists the aid of his friend Juste Leblanc (Francis Huster), who despite his willingness to help can only laugh at his buddy’s predicament. Desperate to find the sex addict’s secret love nest before his wife can consummate Brochant’s comeuppance, Pignon has the brilliant idea of enlisting the aid of the tax office’s lead investigator Lucien Cheval (Daniel Prevost). Cheval is a man who takes an enormous amount of pleasure in catching those that would cheat on their taxes, and during the evening makes a discovery that might very well end in prison time for Brochant.

Villeret and Prevost both won Cesar awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) for acting, while writer/director Veber won his for the screenplay.

Funny is universal. One of the top ten French comedies of all time, “Le Diner De Cons” proves that even the hippest Parisian has a wicked sense of humor. Click here to buy the DVD.

DVD Details

  • Actors: Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot
  • Directors: Francis Veber
  • Format: Color, Import, PAL, Subtitled, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Run Time: 85 minutes