Last year, the stars aligned for a tardy sequel to 1994's DUMB & DUMBER, 20 years after the original heralded the arrival of the Farrelly Brothers as a potent force in '90s comedy, and confirmed Jim Carrey as a white-hot new talent (sandwiched as it was between ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE and THE MASK that same year.)
I say the stars aligned, but truth is the Farrelly's and Carrey's stars have dimmed considerably since their mutual heydays; both suffering a fall in Hollywood stature and box-office clout after a run of flops. DUMB & DUMBER TO marks the first time the Farrelly's have returned to pick over the bones of a past glory, and it's also a rare sequel for Carrey (who's avoided the financial temptation of a cash-in since ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS stunk up cinemas in 1995... until now.)
DUMB & DUMBER TO isn't a complete waste of everyone's time, but it's a conspicuously repetitive follow-up that mainly serves to reminds you its brand of comedy isn't in vogue right now. It doesn't help that this sequel's plot cleaves close to the original—in terms of putting the dimwit protagonists on a long road trip, throwing in a half-baked romance, occasional fantasy/flashback sequences, and a deadpan assassin on their tail. The fundamental story behind DUMB & DUMBER TO is relatively simple, yet communicated so poorly its fails to sink a hook: Harry Dunn (Jeff Daniels) is dying and needs a kidney transplant, so he goes on a cross-country trip with best-friend Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) to find the only suitable donor—his long-lost biological daughter, adopted by a scientific genius whose wife's plotting to kill him with the help of her lover. You may go slightly cross-eyed when story clutter like the lover having a twin government hitman starts to get introduced.
I know what you're thinking: who's watching DUMB & DUMBER TO for storytelling greatness? Well, nobody—but everything needs clarity and structure to work properly. This script (co-written by some HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 scribes, tellingly?) was in dire need of some rewrites to clean things up and remove the dead weight...
It starts terribly and threatens to become one of the worst sequels ever made at one point, but fortunately D&DT begins to hit its stride after the choppy first 30-minutes. That said, so much of this feels like the Farrelly's spent the past few decades collecting a 'scrapbook' of stupid jokes, and this film is simply a delivery vehicle. How many of their best ideas were forced to be used in previous projects? I couldn't tell you, but there are definitely a lot of unfunny misses here—and times when everything becomes so cartoonish (Harry and Lloyd glowing a radioactive green for instance) that you wonder if the Farrelly's thought this would be an animation at one point.
D&DT isn't without some laugh-out-loud moments, and at least Carrey and Daniels are visibly committed to the whole endeavour—even when the material is clearly shoddy and they're helplessly trying to elevate it. Interestingly, I only really started to relax and feel the laughs coming more naturally when Harry and Lloyd were interacting with Rob Riggle's character—who briefly travels with the idiotic duo in the back of a hearse. His exasperation over their foolishness was very funny, and perhaps a sign modern audiences are more comfortable laughing at morons instead of with them? When Harry and Lloyd are left to their own devices, it's oddly distancing seeing them be so implausibly clueless—which is perhaps why the third act works so much better, when they're suddenly mixing with a gathering of nerds at a science conference, and Harry's beautiful bimbo daughter (Rachel Melvin).
Weirdly, the Farrelly's choose to end D&DT with a credits sequence that split-screens scenes from the original with moments from this sequel—and all it does is remind you how weak this sequel is in comparison, and how much younger and funnier Carrey and Daniels looked 20-years ago. One can only hope it was done to show this whole project was an irresistible chance of a reunion, or a love-letter to their shared past, because it certainly won't be the catalyst for DUMB & DUMBER 3.
★ (out of five)
With that title and the prospect of seeing Cameron Diaz nude, SEX TAPE couldn't have been more disappointing. In all seriousness, I didn't expect a no-holds barred sex comedy, but SEX TAPE is so neutered and silly that it quickly became a struggle to watch. The basic idea of a middle-aged couple having to prevent their sex tape falling into the wrong hands isn't a terrible setup, but it's a poor framework for Diaz and Jason Segel to have neighbourly misadventures around town--which results in 'quirky guest star' appearances (Rob Lowe, Jack Black), and "hilarious" moments where a dog is abused. It should have been funnier and sexier, but you're not really going to get the movie that's playing in your head with a mainstream U.S movie clearly following the Judd Apatow filmmaking formula.
★★ (out of five)
A fine performance from Channing Tatum, in a dreadfully dull and prolonged 'true life crime' film that (having briefly researched the story afterwards) takes huge liberties with the real-life events*.
Steve Carell has been earning plaudits for playing beaky weirdo John Du Pont, but the makeup's half the effect here--and I'm not convinced it's an accurate portrayal of this man, anyway. It's a disquieting cartoon. But hey, FOXCATCHER looks and behaves like a brilliant piece of high-brow filmmaking, so let the awards pile up and most other people ignore it.
(* the protagonist brothers never trained together at Foxcatcher, Du Pont's mother was already dead when he started training wrestlers, joining the UFC wasn't a bad career move for Mark Schultz, all the homosexual overtones were invented, the timeline's completely wrong, amongst others. I'm all for poetic license and adjusting things to aide a story, but too much here is misleading and plain wrong.)