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: The Three Stooges

DIR: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly • WRI: Mike Cerrone, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly • PRO: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly Bradley Thomas,  Charles B. Wessler • DOP: Matthew F. Leonetti • ED: Sam Seig • DES: Arlan Jay Vetter • CAST: Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso

They’re back: despite the original trio(s) having passed away decades ago, The Three Stooges return to woo a new generation with their physical comedy and amusing sound effects. Directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have cast three new actors as the titular buffoons – Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos as Larry, Curly and Moe, respectively. The trio are easily the highlight of this film – completely committed to the hyperactivity and eccentric mannerisms of the iconic characters (although more iconic in the States than they are here). Unfortunately, the film they find themselves in is unsure whether it wants to embrace the new or the old, resulting in an awkward, unsatisfying whole.

 

The story couldn’t be simpler: the Stooges grew up in an orphanage run by Mother Superior (Jane Lynch) and her fellow nuns (including, bizarrely, the great Larry David in drag). Like many hapless heroes past, the orphanage’s imminent closure is the catalyst that provokes the middle-aged trio to leave their lifelong home and track down the funds to keep the place open. While desperately searching for work, they’re approached by a scheming wife (Sofía Vergara) and her secret lover (Craig Bierko), who promise to provide the Stooges with the required funds if they’re willing to murder her ‘terminally ill’ husband. Misadventures are sure to follow!

 

The plot is too throwaway to warrant much comment, and there’s little doubt it’s simply there to structure the gags. The film’s biggest problem, alas, is that it simply isn’t very funny. While the leads’ commitment is to be admired, the comic timing feels decidedly off throughout. The gags are there, but are mostly cheap and obvious, often signposted minutes in advance. So-so special effects further dilute their impact. The Farrelly Brothers produced some comedic gold early in their career, but they continue a lengthy streak of mediocrity here.

 

The Farrellys are unsure what audience to aim at. Accurate emulation of the sights and sounds of old school cinematic comedy – from classic title cards to endless trademark ‘honking’- infrequently suggest this may be an effort for a nostalgic older crowd familiar with the original incarnations of the Stooges. Yet it also positions itself as a family movie through and through, with its broad narrative and simplistic slapstick. But then there’s the Farrellys’ trademark toilet humour, and an awkward tendency to focus on Vergara’s cleavage. Oh, and there’s also a plethora of misguided pop cultural references – most dismally through extended cameos from the cast of the deplorable Jersey Shore. I’m usually firmly against the idea that a film needs a ‘target audience’, but this one seems to want all of them at once and hence transforms into a feature-length identity crisis. I for one wish the sibling directors would have just embraced the old-fashioned slapstick without feeling to unconvincingly modernise it, à la The Artist. A weak epilogue homages the original series, but unfortunately the ‘don’t try it at home’ schtick simply adds a condescending final insult to injury.

 

It’s a shame Sasso, Hayes and Diamantopoulos have so little to work with, as with a bit more effort the Farrellys could have given them the script their enthusiasm deserves. There’s a few light chuckles here and there, including a decent dynamite gag and a running joke about Curly’s hair. But there was not a single belly laugh in the screening I attended, which is a fairly damning indication of the film’s minimal comedic value.

 

The Three Stooges has an enthusiastic cast, and directors who certainly have affection for the source material. They even very occasionally nail the aesthetics. But when a cross-dressing Larry David cannot save a comedy, you just know something has gone very wrong indeed. But then again this is a film that’s pretty much critic-proof. Maybe your kids will like it?

Stephen McNeice

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
91 mins

The Three Stooges is released on 24th August 2012

The Three Stooges – Official Website

 

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