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Dinner Is Served 

Steve Carell heads a cast of schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks plays more like a Hollywood multiplex comedy than a remake of a French art-house hit. That’s either good news or bad news to fans of 1998’s Le diner de cons. The jokes are broader here, and the cast is topnotch, but there’s also a little too much catering to mainstream tastes to completely pull it off. The always likable Paul Rudd plays Tim, an eager financial analyst who’s invited to a monthly dinner held by his snooty boss, who challenges his guests to bring the dorkiest person they can find to be ridiculed. Enter Steve Carell as Barry, an IRS auditor who builds dioramas with dead mice in his spare time (which he apparently has a lot of). The setup mostly works; getting there, not so much. There are some funny scenes – an art opening featuring Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement as a pretentious artist, Zach Galifianakis’ mind-reading displays, the dinner itself – and Barry’s dioramas are hilariously inspired. But Dinner for Schmucks eventually becomes a lesson in friendship, and several jokes are artificially shoved into the script. But the movie’s awkward charm is real enough.

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More by Michael Gallucci

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