Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To

DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2014)

In DUMB AND DUMBER TO Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) has been institutionalized for two decades, although his infirmity has been a extensive practical joke he’s been pulling on his best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), who has faithfully visited and changed his diapers every Wednesday. When Harry informs Lloyd that he can’t come any longer because of his own medical condition, the prank is revealed, leaving them to tackle Harry’s issue together.

Harry needs a kidney transplant. Lloyd isn’t keen to give him one of his, but they may have found a solution when they learn Harry is the father of an early twentysomething daughter he never knew he had. The girl’s mother Fraida (Kathleen Turner) gave her up for adoption to a scientist and his wife but does know where she lives. The boys leave Rhode Island to find Penny (Rachel Melvin) only to arrive at her home after she’s departed to make a presentation at a technology conference in El Paso for her ill, Nobel Prize-winning father (Steve Tom). Penny left Dr. Pinchelow’s invention behind, so the two numbskulls are entrusted to deliver it to her as Harry pursues a daughter and donor and Lloyd seeks a bride.

For a film in which a fair amount of the humor involves what goes in and comes out of orifices, DUMB AND DUMBER TO manages to seem inoffensive despite its crudity. The vulgar comedic ingenuity includes a cat’s feathery flatulence and a father’s hilariously inappropriate advice for dealing with menstruation. DUMB AND DUMBER TO serves as a good example of how limitations can work in a comedy’s favor, even one that employs shock value. Although it’s astonishing that the gag with an elderly woman in a nursing home was permitted in a PG-13 film, the rating requires a certain amount of nuance and cleverness that more graphic language and visuals don’t need. The laughs are produced from the tension between what’s suggested and shown. Frankly, it seems like the film gets away with more because it leads the audience to fill in the blanks rather than pounding us over the head with the jokes’ climaxes.

As Lloyd explains to Harry regarding his 20-year prank, some things are funnier the longer the punchline is delayed. Co-writers and directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly smartly execute low humor through constructed gags with several small rewards before the big payoffs. In the case of Harry’s pleasant memory being reproduced on a screen, the funniest aspect isn’t the filthy capper but an aside about shutting the door. DUMB AND DUMBER TO’s greater strength may be in the silly literalness with which its characters interact with the world, though. True to the film’s title the jokes are often dumb, like Lloyd and Harry pedaling their bicycle while it’s mounted on a bus’s rack, and dumber, such as a play on words with a highway named after an actress, but they’re delivered with such brio that it’s hard to resist the stupidity.

The Farrellys and four other credited screenwriters throw plenty of coarse jokes against the wall and many stick, but the film has patchy stretches, especially after Lloyd and Harry reach their destination. The plot merely serves as an excuse to link sketches involving the twosome acting like doofuses and thus doesn’t provide much momentum. Whenever it seems like DUMB AND DUMBER TO may be stalling out, along comes a puerile wisecrack or two to sustain the good will it was starting to lose.

The Farrellys put a good bit of craft in DUMB AND DUMBER TO, even if their film is just an elevated version of kids in the cafeteria trying to crack up their friends. It’s as simple and amusing as watching Carrey wolf down a hot dog as though he’s Homer Simpson and then wiping his mouth with the bun that he throws away.

Grade: B-

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