Steve Carell is coming to dinner and Paul Rudd is your host.

In the new comedy 'Dinner for Schmucks,' Rudd ('I Love You, Man') plays Tim, a rising executive who needs to recruit a schmuck for his boss's monthly dinner for idiots. The bigger the idiot, the better to ingratiate yourself with the boss. He finds Carell's ('The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' 'The Office') Barry, who is quite the idiot, and the fun starts from there.

Zach Galifianakas, Jemaine Clement and Jeff Dunham play wacky dinner guests and Stephanie Szostak is Tim's reproachful girlfriend. 'Dinner for Schmucks,' directed by Jay Roach of 'Austin Powers' fame, is based on a 1998 Francis Veber French black comedy called 'The Dinner Game.'

Critically, this is one dinner most scribes would like to pass on. Critics feel the Tim and Barry characters have been overly sanitized for American audiences, and the Barry character becomes too likable for the jokes delivered at his expense.

If you do go to this 'Dinner,' look out for the performances of Galifianakis ('The Hangover') and Clement ('Flight of the Conchords'). They're better than the entree, the critics say. Steve Carell is coming to dinner and Paul Rudd is your host.

In the new comedy 'Dinner for Schmucks,' Rudd ('I Love You, Man') plays Tim, a rising executive who needs to recruit a schmuck for his boss's monthly dinner for idiots. The bigger the idiot, the better to ingratiate yourself with the boss. He finds Carell's ('The 40-Year-Old Virgin,' 'The Office') Barry, who is quite the idiot, and the fun starts from there.

Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement and Jeff Dunham play wacky dinner guests and Stephanie Szostak is Tim's reproachful girlfriend. 'Dinner for Schmucks,' directed by Jay Roach of 'Austin Powers' fame, is based on a 1998 Francis Veber French black comedy called 'The Dinner Game.'

Critically, this is one dinner most scribes would like to pass on. Critics feel the Tim and Barry characters have been overly sanitized for American audiences, and the Barry character becomes too likable for the jokes delivered at his expense.

If you do go to this 'Dinner,' look out for the performances of Galifianakis ('The Hangover') and Clement ('Flight of the Conchords'). They're better than the entree, the critics say.

They hype

Orlando Sentinel: "But, my stars and garters -- the laughs, friends. The laughs build and build, and the little character turns by everyone from 'Little Britain's' David Walliams (as a dorky Swiss millionaire) and 'Flight of the Conchords'' Jemaine Clement (as a pretentious, dim and oversexed artiste) to Octavia Spencer (as a psychic who talks to dead pets, and the lobsters who are the main course at dinner) are an embarrassment of comic riches."

Rolling Stone: "Roach finds room for a three-ring circus of clowns, including Jemaine Clement ('Flight of the Conchords') as a bizarro performance artist, Comedy Central's Jeff Dunham as a nutso ventriloquist and 'The Hangover's' Zach Galifianakis as, well, I'll let you figure that out. Shocks are part of the fun."

They snipe

Chicago Tribune: "In Veber's original version, the victim cluelessly yet systematically destroyed the life and social standing of his victimizer, and the comeuppance was richly deserved. The tone of the French original was dry yet sharp, skating a fine line between embracing the humiliation of its premise and exposing the cruelty of its proponents. The remake trips all over itself trying make sense of the characters and a new story line."

Entertainment Weekly: "In an effort to spice up the unsalted stew, 'Dinner for Schmucks' gives a lot of room -- a desperate amount -- to two pungent comedians in minor roles. In a subplot adapted from the French film, Zach Galifianakis lays down his deadpan stares to little effect as Barry's IRS colleague with self-proclaimed powers of mind control. And in a subplot that, in altered form, wisely took place off camera in the original, 'Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement bulldozes the film as a preening artist-of-the-moment whom Tim mistakenly believes to be his girlfriend's lover. (The guy is such a pompous ass that her fidelity is never in doubt.)"

'Dinner for Schmucks' trailer


Newsweek:
"In 'Dinner for Schmucks,' it is quickly and firmly established that the only reason nice-guy Tim agrees to participate in the rope-a-dope dinner is because he wants to get ahead at work, and the only reason he wants to get ahead at work is so his girlfriend will marry him. Of course, we know that his logic is flawed: his girlfriend can't really care about how much money he makes; otherwise, we wouldn't root for him to wind up with her."

St. Petersburg Times:
"Comedy is often when something tragic happens to someone else. But when that someone is as sweetly guileless as Carell's Barry Speck -- quiet as a mouse and using those rodents to make adorably dumb dioramas -- the laughter is muffled by he-doesn't-deserve-that sighs."

Time Out New York:
"The perfect companion for such a cruel soiree, Barry is a self-delusional, literal-minded simpleton whose innocent intentions become burdensome by the fact that he can't take a hint. Once Tim is shackled to this deep-down lovable caricature, the mismatched buddy shtick with a tender resolution is on autopilot."

It's eh, so-so

The Hollywood Reporter:
"Though Carell and Rudd are both saddled with characters that just aren't as interesting as many they've played in the past, the movie benefits from having drawn many gifted comedians to supporting roles. Screwy performances from actors like 'Little Britain' vet David Walliams provide surprising pleasure alongside those (by Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement) we already expect to be comic highlights; each adds a note or two of weirdness that is much needed here."

The New York Times:
"There is some hypocrisy in the way Barry is treated: you are invited to laugh at him for more than 90 minutes and then implicitly chided for having done so, as the tables are turned, the self-satisfied winners are shown to be the real losers, and Tim's nice-guy instincts come out on top. The job of finessing this contradiction falls mainly to Mr. Carell, who rises to the task by finding a new, or at least newish, way to be at once creepy, endearing, obnoxious and forgiving."
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