★ ★ 1/2
Dinner for Schmucks is the type of movie I usually despise. A hackneyed American version of a foreign arthouse film is about the last thing I'm likely to enjoy. I went in with that expectation, and I was pleasantly surprised. While the plot was as cliched as I'd imagined, they threw so much at the audience, that some was bound to stick. Putting Steve Carell, Jemaine Clement, and Zach Galifianakis together is likely to lead to some laughs. Add Ron Livingston, and laughs are assured.
The irony of Dinner for Schmucks is that while it was marketed as a Steve Carell movie, Carell wasn't the driving force behind the comedy. He delivered a lot of laughs, but had his fair share of misfires. The real star was Jemaine Clement. If you look close enough, you may recognize Jemaine (Kieran) from Flight of the Conchords. His character is an 'artist', specializing in grotesque portraits of himself. In short, it's the type of 'art' that an impartial observer would laugh at, but regularly appears at modern art galleries. It's a not so subtle jab at modern 'art', and Jemaine absolutely nails it.
On top of Clement's character, we also get entertaining performances from Hollywood's two leading pseudo-cameo artists: Ron Livingston, and Zach Galifianakis. Livingston (otherwise known as Peter from Office Space) doesn't have to do much to make me laugh. In fact, I burst out laughing any time I see him. Played by anyone else, his role would not have been funny--and wouldn't have intended to be. He's Peter from Office Space. He doesn't need to do anything to be funny. Galifianakis plays a 'mind controlling' IRS agent, who is Barry's (Carell) nemesis. Galifianakis makes Carell's role work. Most of the time.
I haven't mentioned Paul Rudd yet, and frankly, there isn't much reason to. He's the cliched leading man in a comedy, and we'll leave it at that. Dinner for Schmucks doesn't stand on it's own as a movie. It's more like skit comedy superimposed on a boring movie, and that's just fine with me.