Sep 24, 2014

Review: Le dîner de cons [The Dinner Game] (1998)

Francis Veber is the man who not only wrote and directed Le dîner de cons, but he's also responsible for the play in which the movie is based on. This is not Veber's first time directing a movie although he does have a longer history as a screenplay writer. He's known to give his screenplays theatre-like qualities and he has had some of his screenplays begin their lives as plays besides Le dîner de cons. What this does is minimize the production costs of the movie but still of course have the potential to make a killing.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think that I've seen Le dîner de cons at a certain point in my life. The reason for that is because of how familiar Jacques Villeret as François Pignon is to me. He's pretty much unforgettable as a "con" or idiot if you will, so I must've seen this when I was younger. Maybe in some French class in high school? At the very least, I probably saw a bit of Le dîner de cons on TV although I don't think I finished it. Glad I finally have the chance to now.


Genre: comedy
Directed by: Francis Veber
Produced by: Alain Poiré
Written by: Francis Veber
Music by: Vladimir Cosma
Running time: 80 minutes
Production company: Gaumont, EFVE, TF1 Films Production, etc.
Distributed by: Gaumont Buena Vista International, Lions Gate Films, Teleview International, etc.
Country: France
Language: French
Budget: N/A
Box office: $4,071,548 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prévost, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot, Benoît Bellal, Mykhaël Georges-Schar, Jacques Bleu, Philippe Brigaud, Michel Caccia, Laurent Gendron


Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) is a publisher who attends a weekly dinner with some other rich friends which they call a "dîner de cons." The basic idea is to find a random idiot, invite them over for dinner and then decide who brought the best idiot. At the last minute, Pierre is able to find a wonderful idiot named François Pignon (Jacques Villeret). He looks like a surefire way to winning best idiot of the night. Unfortunately, Pierre puts out his back during a golf game and can't attend the dinner. He still has François come over to ascertain his idiot status, but things don't exactly go as he planned.


The comedy in Veber's script is unfailingly funny and was responsible for many laugh out loud moments for me. There are some great jokes involving simple things like people's names or recurring mistakes that François Pignon repeats again and again which enrage Pierre that make Le dîner de cons a really great comedy. A lot of the comedy is the kind of thing that will translate really well, no matter the language. It's funny to everyone. That's why it's no surprise that there are remakes from multiple countries. 

Besides just the script, the actors are also pure gold. The standard here is without a doubt Jacques Villeret as François Pignon. The man has a funny face already without doing anything. Watching Pignon just do stuff is funny. Watching him say stuff is equally as funny and it's no surprise that
Jacques Villeret won for best actor at the 1999 César Awards. If I saw him in real life I'd probably laugh uncontrollably.

Thierry Lhermitte as the rich, bored and mean publisher Pierre Brochant also has his moments. He has some good chemistry with fellow actor Villeret and both have their timing just right. Feigning interest in Pignon's matchstick models or getting extremely exasperated when Pignon screws up what he was meant to do are when Lhermitte is at his best. I also love the tax auditor character Lucien Cheval (Daniel Prévost). Prévost does a great job at bringing even more laughs to what is already a hilarious movie. He's just a bonus to this whole thing.

Francis Veber's Le dîner de cons succeeds in its mission to be a funny comedy. It does so with a limited budget and clear roots as a theatre production. Jacques Villeret who apparently played François Pignon 600 times for the theatre production beginning in 1993, is the gem of this movie. There is clearly no one else who could've played the likeable idiot that Pignon really is. Le dîner de cons is an easy French comedy classic in my books.



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