Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Dumb And Dumber To

Dumb And Dumber To was written by Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin, Mike Cerrone and Peter and Bobby Farrelly (Jesus, it took six people to write this thing?). It was also directed by the Farrelly brothers.

The original Dumb And Dumber launched the careers of the Farrellys as both directors and writers. It also sealed Jim Carrey's status as a comedy superstar, coming on the heels of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask, which were released earlier the same year.

Premiering twenty years after the original film, Dumb And Dumber To hits theaters about eighteen years too late. It's nearly always a mistake to make a sequel more than five years after the original, as audience tastes and film styles change too much in the intervening years. If the sequel is too much like the original, it's labeled a carbon copy. If it deviates too far from the source material, then audiences will shun it. It's a losing proposition.

Dumb And Dumber To is a prime example of this. Its plot is pretty much identical to the first, sending Harry and Lloyd on yet another cross country road trip, with hijinx ensuing along the way. Numerous fan-favorite lines and sight gags are even dusted off and trotted out again. In a January 2013 interview, Peter Farrelly said, "I love the script. It's exactly like the first one." Well, I certainly can't argue with him there.

It's not a terrible film, but it's not particularly good, either. There are a few genuine laughs but for the most part it's just kind of there. I think the biggest problem is that the Farrelly's patented brand of gross-out humor has lost its shock value over the decades, and isn't anywhere near as funny as it once was. 
Die hard fans will likely be pleased to see the characters going through their familiar motions again, while viewers who never saw the original will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

The film had a difficult time making it to the screen (which was no doubt a sign from the gods). The Farrellys confirmed in 2011 that they were filming a sequel. Then in 2012 Jim Carrey dropped out of the project due to squabbles with Warner Bros. Jeff Daniels then threatened to quit if Carrey wasn't involved. Warner ultimately decided not to back the film, but allowed other studios to pick it up. Independent studio Red Granite financed the film's $35 million dollar budget, and it was released by Universal. 


Wow, somebody really, really wanted this film to be made. I have a feeling the ones most interested were the Farrellys, as they desperately try to recapture their former comedic glory. Jim Carrey hasn't exactly been setting the box office on fire lately either, so I'm betting he hoped that going back to his roots would help boost his career a bit as well.

SPOILERS, I GUESS.

The Plot:
The film picks up twenty years after the first, with Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) committed to a mental institution after his breakup with Mary Swanson. His best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) has been dutifully visiting and changing his diapers (isn't that something the hospital staff should be doing?) every week for the past two decades. When Harry says he can't visit anymore, Lloyd yells "Gotcha!," revealing that he had himself committed as a joke and has been faking insanity all these years.

Harry admits that he needs a kidney transplant but can't find a suitable donor, which seems like kind of a dark direction to go in a screwball comedy, but what do I know? He then discovers he once conceived a daughter with his old girlfriend Fraida Felcher, but she was given up for adoption and now lives in El Paso. 

Harry and Lloyd then set out on yet another cross country road trip (just like in the first film) in an effort to find Harry's daughter and talk her into donating a kidney, which is a perfectly normal think to ask a child you've never met. They disrupt the lives of numerous people and events along the way as hilarity ensues. 

That's pretty much the plot.

Thoughts:
• Based on the level of spelling I see splashed all over the internet, I wonder how many people in the audience got the joke in the title?

• Not really a mistake, but an observation: Harry believes he has a daughter who was born in 1991. That means she was born before the first film came out in 1994.

• Part of me thinks Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels are too old to still be yucking it up like this (at age 52 and 59 respectively), but they're in good company. The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello and many other comedy teams were still plugging away well after they should have retired.

Mind you I still don't think it's a good idea, but it's not like they're the first to do so.


• Brady Bluhm reprises his role as the blind, wheelchair-bound Billy in 4C. In the original film, Lloyd sold the unsuspecting Billy a dead parakeet to raise some cash. In this sequel he inadvertently kills Billy's beloved collection of exotic birds. Com-O-Dee!

• Bill Murray has an uncredited and unrecognizable cameo in the film as Icepick, Harry's meth-cooking roommate. He just gets weirder with each passing year.

• Harry tracks down his old flame Fraida Felcher, who's played by Kathleen Turner. It's a little uncomfortable when Harry and Lloyd both comment on her mannish looks and abundant jowls. Of course it's true she's changed radically since her Body Heat days, but I don't think it was necessary to point it out.

Kudos to Turner for being game enough to endure all the harsh insults slung her way. 


• The Mutt Cutts dog car makes a triumphant return— for all of thirty seconds. Seriously, it appears for less than a minute, then breaks down and is whisked back offscreen. Its presence has absolutely nothing to do with the plot and seems to have been included only for the sake of nostalgia, so fans and causal viewers alike can exclaim, "Hey, I remember that car!"

• Harry's daughter Penny was adopted by a Professor Pinchelow, a wealthy scientist (!) who's supposedly developed an invention that will benefit the entire world. 

Pinchelow's wife Adele is secretly scheming to kill him so that she and Travis, the handyman, can inherit his vast fortune.

Something about this seemed awfully familiar to me. I finally realized that the Farrelly's used the exact same subplot in 2012's The Three Stooges. In that film, a wealthy businessman's wife (Sofia Vergara) is secretly scheming to kill him so that she and Mac (Craig Bierko), her lover, can inherit his vast fortune.

The Farrelly's didn't just copy elements from the original Dumb And Dumber here, they also cribbed ideas from their other movies. Recycling!


• Laurie Holden, of The Walking Dead fame, plays Adele. She's practically unrecognizable when she's not caked with dirt and blood!

Robb Riggle plays both Travis and his twin brother Captain Lippencott.

As Travis, Riggle wears what may be the worst looking wig in the history of cinema. I've seen plastic Beatle wigs that looked more realistic than that throw rug. Surely it can't be that hard to find a realistic looking wig in Hollywood, the hairpiece capital of the world.

• Captain Lippencott is an ex-marine or Navy Seal or something, and is a master of camouflage. Several times in the film he paints his entire body to blend in perfectly with the background. It's a pretty cool effect and I was astonished that I didn't see him until he started moving.

I figured they did the camo effect with a green bodysuit and cgi, but amazingly it was shot live in-camera! Riggle actually stood in front of various walls and vending machines while makeup artists painted his body to blend in with the background, a process that took up to seven hours. Color me impressed!

• After seeing a photo of Harry's daughter, Lloyd begins lusting after her, despite the fact that she's less than half his age (ew). He daydreams about picking her up for the prom at Harry's run-down mobile home. In this fantasy, Harry's wife is played by Mama June Shannon, of Here Comes The End Of Civilization, er, I mean Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fame.

I wonder if the Farrelly's regret their bone-headed decision to include Mama June in the film, especially after she's recently been accused of shacking up with her daughter's alleged molester? 

The Farelly's seem overly enamored with these reality show "stars" and love including them in their films. For example The Jersey Shore goons made a cameo appearance in the aforementioned Three Stooges movie. The problem with including these Z-list celebrities is that nothing ages faster than today's hot trend. These cameos date the film before it's even been released.

• After the credits, there's a title screen that reads Dumb And Dumber For, Coming In 2034.

That's just the movie trying to be cute. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on another sequel, unless Carrey and Daniels film it when they're in their 70s!

A belated and unnecessary sequel, Dumb And Dumber To tries to recapture the spirit of the original by copying it to the letter. I give it a C+.

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