Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Dumb and Dumber To

Title: Dumb and Dumber To

Is It Worth The 20 Year Wait? Nothing is worth a 20-year wait, except perhaps the reunion of the cast of D2: The Mighty Ducks. Because really, who wasn't looking forward to that?

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One bottle of Turbo Lax out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Moronic duo trek across America to find one's long lost daughter while contemplating the paradox of existence. They also fart a lot.

Tagline: "The average person uses 10 percent of their brain capacity. Imagine what they could do with 1 percent."

Better Tagline: "The sequel no one wanted, including the cast and filmmakers."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Harry Dunn (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) have reunited after 20 years of not-quite separation (Lloyd faked brain damage as a prank ... yep) for two reasons: Harry needs a kidney, and he wants to find his daughter named Penny (Rachel Melvin), who was given up for adoption by one-time lover Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner). The two set off in pursuit of Penny, who's attending a tech conference in El Paso (don't ask). Though unbeknownst to them, Penny's adoptive mother Adele (Laurie Holden) and her lover Travis (Rob Riggle) want everyone out of the picture for reasons I can't dredge up the effort to type out.

"Critical" Analysis: Tempus sure does fugit. When the original Dumb and Dumber was released in 1994, Jim Carrey was a newly anointed box office phenom and so-called "gross out comedies" had yet to really take hold. D&D helped solidify Carrey's marketability and made the Farrelly Brothers household names.

Big surprise, then, that we get a sequel when both are years away from their last hit: Carrey's was 2008's Horton Hears a Who!, the Farrelly's 2001's Shallow Hal, and that's using a generous definition of the term. Still, even given the (probably) mercenary motivations behind the sequel, you'd think there'd be no reason it shouldn't be as well-received as the first movie.

Watching Dumb and Dumber To, I realized what had made its predecessor as successful as it was. Not only did the Farrellys/Carrey/Daniels stretch the envelope of good taste, there was also a gleeful misanthropy at play that's mostly missing here. Maybe this says more about me than anything, but mean-spiritedness was part of what made the original so successful. Now, as if succumbing to the cliché of old age softness, Harry and Lloyd's shtick is more about pre-adolescent hijinks than deliberate mayhem. And minus a few toilet jokes, there's nothing to set D&DT apart from most comedies.

Well, other than a lack of laughs. Say what you want about Dumb and Dumber, at least the Farrellys et al. went any length for a gag. This time around, you can count on one cartoon hand the number of actual chuckles, as opposed to merely cringeworthy moments (Lloyd's creepy fantasizing about his friend's daughter, any scene with Kathleen Turner), or instances in which punchlines fall flat or fail to materialize at all.

But kindler, gentler filmmakers and laziness can only explain so much, and I suspect the real problem might be that we as a species are simply getting stupider. Dumb and Dumber was released in the halcyon mid-90s, when the only reality shows were COPS and The Real World and the internet looked like this. Nowadays, morons are routinely displayed on TV 24 hours a day, while we're free to demonstrate our own idiocy online at any time and about any topic. After two decades of everything from Anna Nicole Smith binge eating to "beatin' up the beat," Harry and Lloyd are almost quaintly simplistic.

Nowhere is this illustrated better than in the cameo by Mama June from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (a decision New Line is, to put it mildly, probably regretting). The Officer and a Gentleman-inspired scene in which Lloyd paws June's breasts is played for novelty value, but really only demonstrates the growing gap between allegedly hilarious cinematic stupidity and the dreariness of reality.

Admittedly, I wasn't expecting anything from this movie except a handful of cheap laughs, but it failed to provide even that. Lazy, uninspired, and populated by a cast that looks like they want to be anywhere else (are we pouring a 40 out for Rob Riggle's career yet?), Dumb and Dumber To is the most depressing "comedy" I've seen in years.

Dumb and Dumber To is in theaters today. And to think, I was going to name my dog Sea Bass.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar