In Steve Carell's first few episodes of The Office, the series hewed closely to Ricky Gervais' BBC template. But here, audiences didn't take to so bleak a comic vision, and the tone of the series soon evolved from harsh satire to affectionate, gentle comedy. Ratings success ensued. That's a lesson well learned by the makers of Carell's new movie, an American reworking of the 1998 French comedy Le Dîner de Cons. Francis Veber's original was fundamentally on the side of the idiots. Not so Dinner, directed by Jay Roach, which turns the original's snobbish, cruel editor into Paul Rudd, the nicest young man you're ever likely to meet. Meanwhile, bowl-cut, windbreaker-wearing Barry (Carell) is not just an unctuous bumbler, but is, in fact, borderline mentally disabled. That is the only conclusion I can reach after watching credulous Barry gleefully smash bottles of wine against the walls of Tim's apartment. Dinner is funny, sure. How can it not be, with good comic actors like Carell and Rudd—plus Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Kristen Schaal, and Ron Livingston? And rest assured, no American comedy is going to call itself Dinner for Schmucks without showing us the actual dinner for schmucks, naturally the movie's comic apogee. There's a blind fencer, a ventriloquist married to a slutty dummy, and a guy who French-kisses his vulture. They're all idiots, or possibly mentally ill. Paramount Pictures and Jay Roach would like to invite you to a dinner they're hosting, at which you are welcome to laugh at them.
Rudd doesnt quite command our sympathy.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 30. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes.