Dumb and Dumber To

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DIR: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly • WRI: Sean Anders, John Morris • PRO: Riza Aziz, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Joey McFarland, Bradley Thomas • DOP: Matthew F. Leonetti • ED: Steven Rasch • DES: Aaron Osborne • MUS: Empire of the Sun • CAST: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden

Is making a great comedy film by design, alchemy or accident? It sure would help if a great script was written but in an era where American comedians are frequently entrusted with finding the funny on the day through the variable returns of improv, the recipe for success seems loose and elusive. Resulting in some sporadically funny films in recent times but precious few ‘start to finish’ classics.

Back at their zeitgeist-setting zenith, the Farrelly Brothers believed in applying as many funny bones and brains to the process as possible. Table readings with writers, performers and finally the cast refined crude material into sparkling scatological humour that even high-brow critics celebrated for a brief shining moment. The process worked brilliantly for a while. However, it seems keeping your finger on the comedic pulse across decades is extremely difficult.

Let’s be clear – moments of this sequel rival and even trump the daft ingenuity of the first film. Yet the moments are lonely and sit alone and adrift amid long stretches that just don’t click. Sustaining lunacy is a miracle that the original film succeeded in making look easy. Re-lighting that fire in this case takes a lot of effort. Occasionally this sequel catches fires but in other places the attempted jokes act as fire extinguishers. And a flabby edit allows the audience way too much thinking time and sadly, silence for dud jokes to echo around in.

No fault for effort could ever be laid at the door of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. They truly reprise these characters in a manner that makes you think they might have been getting together in the intervening twenty years to dust off Lloyd and Harry at regular intervals. The film opens promisingly with a witty explanation of Lloyd’s dedication to a bit. The next twenty minutes are where the film meanders desperately in search of a plot. The convoluted premise of ‘Harry needing a kidney from a daughter he doesn’t know he has’ is perfectly fine as a framework but it literally takes forever to get on the road. Which is a shame because once the road trip starts, the comedy gears shift into overdrive.

Out on the highways, the comedy comes alive. Getting these guys locked in a car is apparently the key to the entire endeavour. Their games of one-upmanship with Rob Riggle capture that requisite but evasive mood that we fell for the first time. Sadly, a closing section at a computer conference drifts off that sweet spot again. Still, there’s some gold in the mud. One of the funniest things about the sequel is that they pay huge homage to their direct predecessor to the point that they build plot points off minor characters and mere asides in the original. I watch Dumb & Dumber semi-religiously and they were losing me at times.

In all of the kerfuffle, the film that isn’t getting mentioned at all is the black sheep of the ‘trilogy’. Remember When Harry Met Lloyd. NO? No one does but it’s the prequel that nearly neatly bisects the twenty years and though there’s precious little overlap in the Venn diagram of creative talent between that film and this, it was an ominous early warning about the dangers of returning to this ‘lighting in a bottle’.

It’s also odd to me that the film isn’t enlivened by cameos or star turns of any kind. Not that I want the whole project to be overwhelmed but the opposite effect is achieved by the absence of anyone to remotely rival Carrey and Daniels.

Is Dumb and Dumber To worth your two cents? I’m not certain it’s a ‘hire a babysitter/pay for parking/buy popcorn in the cinema’ kind of cinema trip. More a ‘take an afternoon off/sneak into a matinee/smuggle supermarket popcorn’ kind of trip. You might get your money’s worth with the latter method.

Shame. A sharper edit and sharper script could have put an impossible feat within reach.

 

James Phelan

15A (See IFCO for details)
109 minutes.
Dumb and Dumber To
is released 19th December.

Dumb and Dumber To – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Looper

snooker looper

DIR/WRI: Rian Johnson  PRO: Ram Bergman, James D. Stern   DOP: Steve Yedlin  ED: Bob Ducsay Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels

We are long overdue a great time travel adventure. Sure, we’ve had dramas such as Midnight in Paris and mind-bending thrillers such as Primer, but there hasn’t been a proper edge-of-your-seat time travel movie since 12 Monkeys, nor a fun one since the Back to the Future trilogy.

Thank goodness for Looper. Clever without being baffling, fun without being silly, Rian Johnson’s film balances its own mythology with a pulp thriller story that feels simultaneously classical and entirely new. Johnson, the writer/director of cult high school noir Brick and the seen-by-few (and liked by fewer) The Brother’s Bloom, is a film fan’s filmmaker, a man who has imbibed the Hollywood genre greats, and who now pours those ideas through the blender of his brain and creates some fascinating, if hitherto not entirely successful chimaeras. Looper’s influences are evident and many, and surprisingly none of them are films about time travel.

Starting off 30 years from now in Kansas City, Looper is set in an America wracked with colossal rates of unemployment and homelessness, but where the well-to-do dress like guest stars on Mad Men. A comment on the trajectory of modern America, sure, but that’s where the social commentary ends. Another 30 years down the road, in 2072, time travel technology has been developed, but only for use by the wealthiest and most duplicitous of people. Rather than risk a Back to the Future-style paradox, the global mob of 2072 uses time travel for the sole purpose of disposing of corpses – easily tracked in the future, easily gotten rid of in the past.

In 2042, mob goons called loopers are assigned the task of gunning down newly materialised mob targets the moment they appear from 2072. It’s good work if you can get it, but it comes at a high price. Looper Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is happy with his lot; splashing his cash on cars, drugs and a prostitute with a heart of gold. But things get thrown for a loop for him (sorry) when his latest target is revealed to be himself, 30-years-older, and now looking like Bruce Willis. Willis knocks his young self out and goes on the run, set on a mission to alter the future, while Gordon-Levitt must track down his older, wilier self while evading his own bosses at looper HQ, who can instantly take out the elusive Willis by killing Gordon-Levitt, thereby erasing Willis from the timeline.

Ostensibly a chase movie through a neo noir future, Looper keeps its story energised by keeping the time travel repercussions as simple as possible. As long as Willis is still there, he knows Gordon-Levitt will grow up to be him. As Gordon-Levitt acquires fresh cuts and injuries, Willis develops brand new, decades-old scars.

Looper is as smart in its dialogue as it is in its ideas. Gordon-Levitt and Willis spar over their shared memories in the film’s most cleverly crafted scene. Looper boss Abe (a delightfully sneering Jeff Daniels) chastises his young employees for dressing in suits and ties, an out-dated fashion now brought back by the Mod-like gangsters – fashion has a cyclical nature, underscoring the film’s central theme. Language, too, has come full circle; the word ‘blunderbuss’ has been uprooted from the history books to refer to the loopers’ heavy-duty shotguns.

Johnson’s team have crafted a terrific thriller here, with crisp, bright imagery and coherent editing. The score hums and clicks with electronic, industrial sounds overlaying traditional instruments. Gordon-Levitt, belatedly (by a decade) the in-demand actor of the hour, is tough yet endearing in the lead role, and the fine makeup that makes him a believable antecedent to Bruce Willis (most notably wearing Willis’ curling nose) never distracts from his performance. Willis plays the weary, broken-hearted avenger he’s based the last decade of his career on with expected fluency. Only Johnson regular Noah Segan disappoints, in the underdeveloped role of token villain Kid Blue.

The film’s seemingly boundless energy comes to a crashing halt in the third act as Willis heads off on his mission and Gordon-Levitt hides out at the rural home of Emily Blunt’s suspicious Sara. The rhythm of the film goes all to hell for nearly 20 minutes, and the temptation to, like the characters in the movie, repeatedly glimpse at your watch is hard to resist. But this is all forgiven in a shocking, brilliantly conceived final quarter hour, that is as exciting as it is philosophical.

Aside from that late lull, the film’s most troubling aspect is its narration, lazily used to explain its mythology and technology, and it’s left unclear from where or when (or on what timeline) Gordon-Levitt is narrating. But Looper succeeds in making its world easily accessible, and more impressively manages to make its two anti-heroes – one a junkie out to kill his future self, the other so hell-bent on vengeance he will stop at nothing to do what he insists is right – likeable and worthy of our attention.

With echoes to films as eclectic as Witness and Akira and with a finale drawing on the magnificent climax of the supposedly inimitable Russian classic Come and See, Looper is a minor triumph of genre-bending entertainment.

David Neary

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
118mins

Looper is released on 28th September 2012

Looper –  Official website

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Away We Go

Away We Go

DIR: Sam Mendes • WRI: Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida • PRO: Sam Mendes, Peter Saraf, Edward Saxon, Marc Turtletaub • ED: Sarah Flack • DES: Jess Gonchor • CAST: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Since the popularity of Juno, studios have been spewing out so-called ‘indie’ flicks like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Kooky’ tales interspersed with singer-songwriter guitar music, self-consciously witty dialogue and minimal cinematography. Sam Mendes, however, has more experience than your average indie-flicker, and though the pretentions are all there, his attention to realistic character detail and beautiful shots lifts Away We Go above the artificialness of the generic norm.

That’s not to say that there aren’t cracks in the well-constructed wall – those classic indie stereotypes still abound. From Jeff Daniels’ and Catherine O’Hara’s selfishly clueless parents, to Allison Janney’s trapped-in-parenthood lunatic, and back again to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s painfully hippy mother-earth nutjob, the staples of quirky storytelling are all present. That the observed conventions don’t stick out garishly is down to a fine calibre of acting talent, pleasantly mobile music, and a nicely painted palette of scenes from Mendes.

The basic plot centres on an early-thirties couple – Burt and Verona (played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) – who, on learning of the imminent departure of Burt’s parents prior to the even more imminent arrival of their baby, decide to strike out together to find somewhere to call home. Krasinski might be best known for the American Office, and this character cannot be said to be a million miles from his desk-bound counterpart. However, he brings a goofy sweetness to the role, which works extremely well in the context, and makes Burt a loveable sap. Maya Rudolph, a multi-talented comedienne and songstress, takes a step forward from her Saturday Night Live alter-ego into more serious acting chops, and makes a good job of giving Verona the vulnerability of a first-time mom, as well as the procrastinating directionless freefall of an early-thirties woman not sure of the road ahead.

Most movies dealing with childbirth or pregnancy within this age-group – the late 20s/early 30s citizens of uncertainty – tend towards the patronising, wildly inaccurate, and often downright insulting. The tact and realism with which the issues are dealt with are what gives this movie its real heart. Though the majority of the couple’s encounters with other parents are ripe with comedy, there is truth and pathos beneath every scene. Their struggle with questions of inadequacy and unpreparedness strikes an honest chord and, most meaningfully, their constant battle to retain their individual personalities in the face of becoming a mother and father.

More fun Jarhead than dramatic Road to Perdition, Mendes finds the bittersweet in being an indecisive 30-something struggling to find not only a home, but a more permanent sense of self.

Sarah Griffin
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (See IFCO website for details)
Away We Go is released on 18th September 2009

Away We Go – Official Website

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