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“Dumb and Dumber To”

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New-Line-Cinema

David Ives - published on 11/13/14

Harry and Loyd are up to their same old tricks.

November has been quite the month for eggheads at the movies, hasn’t it? Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” has finally arrived, and although it’s fatally flawed, it’s still by far full of more big ideas than most every other movie this year. Then there’s “Big Hero 6,” Disney’s latest animated feature which, while not lacking in the superheroics, has a story that tends to favor brains over brawn. And now, to continue November’s trend of movies made for Mensa members, Hollywood is offering us… “Dumb and Dumber To.”

Well, that was a pretty short lived trend, wasn’t it?

“Dumb and Dumber To” is, of course, the long awaited sequel to “Dumb and Dumber.” You remember that movie, don’t you, the 1994 hit about two good natured morons who go on a road trip to track down a woman they know nothing about? Remember how, before they left, Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Loyd (Jim Carrey) accidentally made things miserable for the blind kid who lived downstairs? And surely you haven’t forgotten how the pair unwittingly upset some criminal types, who then pursued Harry and Loyd in order to knock them off? And, of course, there’s the scene where the guys have to find new clothes and end up dressed in something inappropriate and silly. You remember that, don’t you?

Good, because now I don’t have to provide you a synopsis for “Dumb and Dumber To,” as everything I just described (and some other stuff I didn’t) happens all over again in this film in pretty much the same order as the original.

Oh, okay, there are some differences between the two movies. Not a whole lot, mind you, but there are some. For instance, this time around, the mystery woman in question is the daughter whom Harry never knew he had. In need of a compatible kidney for a transplant, Harry and his best pal Loyd take to the road to find the girl’s whereabouts so she can donate one. Stupid things happen.

Look, there’s not a lot of reason to delve very deep into the plot of “Dumb and Dumber To.” Like its predecessor (the original, not the prequel, which we’ll completely ignore here just as much as audiences did when it was released), this second go around for Harry and Loyd is an episodic affair designed to do little more than put the two luckless losers into various situations where their cluelessness causes havoc for everyone else in the area.

In that modest goal, the film succeeds. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels still make a good comedic team, though it’s obvious Carrey is more comfortable returning to the role of goofball than today’s more serious Daniels appears to be. They’re joined by a few new faces, most notably Kathleen Turner, temporarily on loan from stage acting (where Hollywood banishes most of its actresses over the age of 50), and relative newcomer to the big screen, Rachel Melvin, fresh off her role in this year’s zombie beaver movie, “Zombeavers” (that’s a real movie, look it up, I’m not lying).

A lot of the jokes work, even when they’re just retreads of ones from the first movie. There’s one scene involving an address on an envelope that still has me smiling. And the Farrelly Brothers, who return for directing and writing duties, remain unafraid to venture into politically incorrect territory. Along with the aforementioned blind character from the first film, a Stephen Hawking stand-in also gets a few good natured shots taken at him. So, if you’re a fan of the first “Dumb and Dumber,” there’s no reason you shouldn’t be satisfied with this one.

That being said, “Dumb and Dumber To” is a step down in a number of respects. For every joke that works, there’s one that doesn’t. This movie is a much more hit-or-miss affair than the first film. Worse yet, a few of the gags are much cruder than anything found in the original, something I imagine came as quite a shock to all those folks who brought their elementary school-aged children to the screening to show them what their parents used to find funny back in the day.

See, this is why parents should pay attention to the small print found next to a movie’s rating. It says right there in teeny tiny letters in the little box near the bottom of the poster, “Dumb and Dumber To” is “Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.” So parents are given plenty of warning in advance. Sort of.

Still, I can sympathize with those parents who brought their young children in a way. Having not watched the original for a long time, I revisited it before going to see the sequel. I vaguely remembered how, 20 years ago, “Dumb and Dumber” was considered kind of shocking for a mainstream movie. A rewatch, however, confirmed that most of its shocks wouldn’t be out of place on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel these days. It would seem we’ve loosened up our cultural standards a bit over the past two decades and children are exposed to content similar to the original “Dumb and Dumber” all the time.

Some folks don’t see this as a problem. Nick Gillepsie, writing for Time in October 2013, proclaimed, “We may well be an increasingly ill-mannered society, one that’s soaking in violent video games, instantly available online porn, and ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, like our mothers used to soak in Palmolive liquid. But we’re also one in which youth violence, sex, and drug use are all trending down. If that means putting up with, you know, ladies cursing and other examples of unambiguously crass behavior, it seems a terrifically small price to pay.”

Ignoring the correlation/causation problem with Mr. Gillepsie’s argument, the idea seems to be that freedom is necessarily accompanied by a certain level of coarseness. The Church, however, has always had a slightly different take on the matter, believing that “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.” Instead, freedom is the opportunity to choose what is right, and not doing so constitutes an abuse.

Which has what to do with “Dumb and Dumber To?” Only that if you’re going to exercise your freedom to make a movie like this, show a little responsibility with the rating. Slap an “R” on this sucker so that parents who might consider bringing their young kids along to see some knuckleheads make the most annoying sound in the world aren’t blindsided by a scene in which a bedridden geriatric gleefully tricks a character into sexually molesting her. Not every movie released has to be an intelligent one, but a little more brains behind the marketing would be appreciated.

In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia,David Ives spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.

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