New comedy Dinner for Schmucks belongs in a box set with Meet the Parents and Anchorman —a collection of guilty pleasures with such outrageous sight gags and inane lines, you’ll laugh like a hyena and feel bad about it afterward. It’s not particularly inventive—a remake of the French farce Le Diner de Cons, dedicated to making fun of eccentric characters—but it benefits from some of the biggest names in comedy right now. Charmer Paul Rudd plays the straight man Tim, an analyst who is one rung away from the top of the corporate ladder, and can only move up if he competes in the boss’s twisted parlor game: Find a so-called “idiot” and bring him to dinner. Biggest idiot wins a prize.
Enter Steve Carell as Barry, an IRS agent and trained taxidermist who crafts sadly sweet dioramas out of dead mice. Carell seems to reprise his dimwitted weather guy from Anchorman —a well-meaning buffoon who would tell a woman, in all seriousness, “I’d like to extend to you, an invitation to the pants party.” He’s the king of this kind of role, the ultimate 40-Year-Old Virgin, and the heart and soul of an otherwise superficial flick. Thankfully, Rudd and Carell are also surrounded by a solid supporting cast, namely Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) as bad-boy artist Kieran; and Zach Galifianakis as Barry’s boss (and wife-stealing nemesis) Therman, who practices mind control while wearing an orange dickie turtleneck. He’s an idiot, too.
Do the poor schmucks get their (just) desserts at dinner? It’s a good bet. Still, I hoped for more from director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) than the familiar schlock.
Dinner for Schmucks is in theaters now.