Monday, 12 January 2015

Dumb And Dumber To (2015) - Movie Review

There are so many rules, regulations and concessions surrounding sequels to Jim Carrey movies that the Sequels Rulebook has an entire chapter dedicated to them alone. You make a sequel with Jim Carrey in it? You get Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.  You make a sequel without Jim Carrey in it? You get Evan Almighty. You make a sequel without Jim Carrey in it several years after the fact? You get Son Of The Mask. You make a sequel with Jim Carrey when he wasn’t in the original? You get Kick-Ass 2. The range and scale of quality of these films is staggering, which makes today’s film something of an oddity. It’s a sequel made several years after the fact that does star Jim Carrey, which is interesting given his previous stance on sequels that don’t involve Ace Ventura (and even then, he was spared the horrors of being in Ace Ventura Jr.), and it also has the Farrelly brothers coming back to write and direct. How does it turn out? Time to find out in my first review of 2015: This is Dumb & Dumber To.

The plot: 20 years after the events of the first film, Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) reunite after Lloyd’s stint in a mental institution following his break-up with Mary Swanson. Harry tells Lloyd that he needs a new kidney and they decide to track down Harry’s daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin) whom had been given up for adoption by her mother, Fraida (Kathleen Turner). The two go on a road trip to meet her and hopefully get her to consent to a kidney transplant, all while avoiding the plotting of Penny’s adoptive mother Adele (Laurie Holden).

Given the 20 year gap between films, it would be expected if Carrey and Daniels were a bit rusty in their roles. However, the duo haven’t seemed to miss a beat in all that time as they still have the great manic energy and comedic timing that they had before. However, something feels off about the writing behind them. The jokes here are a lot more hit-and-miss than before and seem to be overextending themselves in order to try and outdo the original, being a lot more overt with its gross-out and cringe humour as well as Flanderizing Lloyd into even more so of a complete prick than before.

One look at the list of writers shows a couple of reasons why that could be. First off, we have the Farrelly brothers. Now, this might seem like a good thing, considering how they managed to strike gold with Dumb & Dumber, Me, Myself & Irene and The Virgin episode of Seinfeld back in the day, but their more recent filmography is a bit concerning. Together, the last film they made was The Three Stooges, a film that will one day be on my 2012 list but I’ll hold off seeing anything starring the cast of Jersey Shore for as long as I can. On their own, while Bobby hasn’t done that much of note, Peter is responsible for quite possibly one of the ugliest films I’ve seen: Movie 43. Peter was the spearheading producer behind that cinematic trainwreck, which has made me more than a little cautious considering this film. The second reason may be Sean Anders and John Morris, whose shared resumes include Mr. Popper’s Penguins, We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses 2 and Anders solo directed That’s My Boy. Other than that, we have Farrelly brothers regulars Mike Cerrone and Bennett Yellin, whom have contributed to their bigger successes early on, so they could go either way on this one.

I know that I’m making assumptions here, but having too many cooks in the screenwriter’s kitchen is the only explanation I can see for how bizarrely this is written in comparison to the original. With the original, the two leads were always the dumbest in the room and no-one else could catch onto it because of how unbelievable their actions were; kind of like hiding in plain sight. Here, however, given how much more overt they are in their actions and the settings they are in, everyone else starts to look like bigger idiots by comparison. The glaring example of this is the big technology conference that Harry and Lloyd go to where Harry’s daughter will give a speech. While I get the idea of contrasting the duo’s idiocy with this crowd full of brainiacs, it gets more than a little ridiculous when you consider that not one person in that entire conference sees through them and notices that they aren’t who they say they are. Not only that, on a slightly minor note, the technology being shown at said conference goes into the realms of “Why the hell are you showcasing this here for judging when it can change the fucking world?!” and enters into a realm of stupid that this film wasn’t exactly aiming for.

But then we get into the ending… and something kind of miraculous happens. One exchange that always sticks in my head from the original is when Lloyd asks the FBI agent “What if he shot him in the face?”. Why that stuck out for me is that it showed a certain level of awareness that made it clear that all the idiocy that we saw on screen was calculated so that it stayed merely as writing for dumb characters rather than just dumb writing. The majority of the ending for this is that exchange times a thousand; the level of self-awareness shown here, the addressing of previous character moments and traits that went by almost unnoticed before, not to mention addressing the predictability of its own plot twist, almost reaches genius levels in how good it gets. I won’t spoil any of it for you but it makes about half of the bad over-the-top gags in this film worth sticking through.

All in all, this is a tough one to gauge. Partially because the comedy is a bit lopsided: When it’s good, it’s really freaking good; when it’s bad, it’s seriously annoying. It ranks far higher than Dumb & Dumberer, as this film had actual jokes in it, but it’s nowhere near as good as the original; it’s at the midway point between the two, and even beyond that, it’s just an average comedy. Not exactly a waste of time but not necessarily the best show in town either. If you’re a die-hard fan of the original, though, I can at least give this a recommendation as a rental.

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