REVIEW: “Dumb and Dumber To”

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I happily admit that I’m one of those guys who thought “Dumb and Dumber”, the goofball comedy from 1994, was absolutely hysterical. The film introduced us to Harry and Lloyd, two of the most good-natured and well-meaning morons ever to appear on screen. Your appreciation for these two characters and their story hinged on your tolerance for absurd and idiotic humor. When done well I love that type of comedy and “Dumb and Dumber” did it really well.

Twenty years (and one awful unclaimed prequel) later the boys are back in “Dumb and Dumber To”. The writing and directing duo of the Farrelly brothers return and, after wading through a difficult production process, the true sequel finally hit the screens. But I have to say I had mixed feelings about bringing these characters back. As much as I adored the first film I wasn’t convinced that the Farrelly brothers could recapture that same moronic magic.

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About a third of the way through “Dumb and Dumber To” I was thinking they had recaptured that spark. The characters were twenty years older, but they felt exactly the same as when we left them. For twenty years Lloyd (Jim Carrey) has been in a mental institution as a result of his breakup with Mary Swanson. His best friend Harry (Jeff Daniels) has been faithful to visit him every week, at least until Lloyd reveals that he has been faking in order to pull the ultimate gag on his buddy. The two are reunited and Lloyd learns that Harry is sick and needs a kidney transplant. Harry finds out that years prior he had fathered a child so with Lloyd’s help he sets out to reveal himself to his daughter and possibly get her to give him a kidney as well.

Of course all of that sounds completely insane, but it starts off in perfect harmony with the stupidity of the two lead characters (and I do mean that in a very positive way). The film quickly lobs one funny gag after another, some are incredibly over-the-top, others subtle and equally funny. I was laughing a lot. Everything was clicking for me early on and I was reminded of why I loved the original movie.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO, from left: Jim Carrey, Rob Riggle, Jeff Daniels, 2014. ph: Hopper

But then this film runs into a wall. The humor, which energized the first part of the movie, flatlines and my laughter all but stopped. It seemed as if the Farrelly’s ran out of good gags and were straining to fill out their running time. It loses its cleverness, its charm, and its overall likability. Carrey and Daniels still go for it, but the material devolves into a desperate and dull mess. It becomes cruder and ruder and the laughs become more and more scarce. Then there is the end which is more or less nonsense.

I had high hopes for this film, but they were laced with an understandable hesitation. Sometimes movies like the first film should just be left alone. Today’s comedies seem locked into a single, repeated formula that I normally don’t find funny or entertaining. I loved the thought of a film bringing back that idiotic humor that we haven’t seen in a while. For a bit “Dumb and Dumber To” gives us that. But sadly it never maintains it and the unfunny toilet humor and gross out gags take over. It ends up being yet another Hollywood sequel that didn’t really need to happen.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

“THE 3 STOOGES” – 2 STARS

I have to admit, I avoided the Farrelly brothers new movie “The 3 Stooges” for a while. It was a prime example of a film that seemed utterly unnecessary and I had no confidence, knowing the state of modern comedy, that any director would be able to capture what made the original Stooges so beloved. After finally catching up with the film, I have to admit that I was pretty surprised at just how well the Farrelly brothers channelled the Stooges unique brand of humor. This is actually a comedy with some pretty good laughs. But it also feels like an imitation and a little of these Stooges goes a long, long way.

“The 3 Stooges” is unabashed slapstick silliness that covers everything from the Stooges’ trademark belly punches, eye pokes, and face slaps to their knuckleheaded way with words. It’s relentlessly rambunctious and completely juvenile, yet this lighthearted story has some success and it’s mainly due to some incredibly committed performances from its three leads. The transformation of Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Sean Hayes (Larry), and Will Sasso (Curly) into these three classic comedy characters is nothing short of amazing. And it’s not just their impeccable physical resemblances. Their voices, mannerisms, and of course their slapstick antics are unmistakably Stooge-like. But perhaps what’s best about their performances is that they never stop and wink at the audience. They each play their roles straight and it really helps the film.

The movie is broken into three clever “episodes”. The story itself is about as simple as it gets. The orphanage the Stooges were raised in has fallen on tough economic times and is being forced to shut their doors. That is unless they can get $830,000. Our lovable buffoons, who still live at the orphanage and have been completely sheltered from social interaction and any modernities, take it on themselves to head out into the world and get the money to save their home. Of course their sheltered lives and natural idiocy lead to a series of wacky ‘fish out of water’ scenes and several off-the-wall encounters. Some of the moments work really well and generate some genuine laughs. But as the movie progresses it seems to lose more and more of its energy and interest.

I mentioned above that a little of these Stooges goes a long way and that’s one of the real problems with the movie. Yes, the three leads do an amazing job of portraying the 3 Stooges. But over time their shtick runs headfirst into a wall of repetition. The gags become increasingly generic and less and less funny. And even worse, there were times when it seemed either the movie was running short on material or the Farrelly’s just felt the need to include it, but it resorts to your standard modern-day urine and fart jokes. I just couldn’t help but feel that the movie was running out of gas and that did make it harder to overlook the other more obvious faults with the story.

Even with its faults, “The 3 Stooges” did surprise me. It has some really weak spots in the writing and it may have a hard time holding the attention of anyone over 12 years old. But it certainly has it’s funny moments particularly in the first half of the film. And there’s no way you can discount the really good performances from Diamantopoulos, Hayes, and Sasso. But even with their tremendous efforts this still felt like a really good Elvis impersonator. They look like Elvis. They sound like Elvis. They shake like Elvis. But they aren’t Elvis. But you know, a lot of people like Elvis impersonators and enough is done right in “The 3 Stooges” to earn it an audience. Personally, I just needed a little bit more.