By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated April 16, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

STARRING Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement
WRITTEN BY Andy Borowitz and Ken Daurio

Having made two previous movies together (The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman), Paul Rudd and Steve Carell are so comfortable with each other that during the filming of Dinner for Schmucks, Jay Roach sometimes felt he could just sit back and watch the two funny guys go at it. ”Steve and Paul are both tremendous improvisers,” says the director (Meet the Fockers). ”They’re fantastic at taking what’s good about the script, making it better, and then going even further, toward an inspired lunacy.”

And unlike their earlier collaborations, this time Rudd and Carell got to be equal costars. Rudd plays Tim, an ambitious finance exec who gets a promotion on the condition that he invite a megadork to a dinner contest in which the guy who brings the biggest imbecile is crowned the winner. Naturally, he asks Carell’s Barry, a sweet-natured IRS employee with a passion for dressing up taxidermied mice in re-creations of iconic paintings. The guileless Barry seems like the ideal dweeb. But soon, Roach explains, ”he turns Tim’s life upside down by exposing who the real fools are, which are these guys who think they are entitled to have such a cruel get-together.”

While the 1998 French film Le Dîner de Cons — on which Schmucks is based — is pretty vicious in its comedy, this one is more of a classic unlikely-buddy romp à la Midnight Run. That certainly made Roach’s remake more palatable to Hollywood suits. Says Rudd with a laugh, ”That kind of biting, rough comedy — I think it scares [studio] executives.”

Dinner for Schmucks

  • Movie
  • Jay Roach