“Dumb and Dumber To”
It Sure Is
2 & ½ popcorns
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
It takes some pretty smart writing to make the title characters appear as stupid as they are in “Dumb and Dumber To.” There is wit in the Farrelly Brothers’ reprise to their 1994 imbecility, an explorative zeal and talent for delving far more dopily into ignorance than any farce has dared to stumble. It’s almost as difficult and accomplished a task for us intelligent folk to shed our self-respect for 110 minutes and enjoy the guilty thrill of laughing aloud at the goofiness purveyed.
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, respectively but not respectfully, convince us that they are the penultimate screwballs. They treat idiocy as if it were an Olympic event, inducing us not only to chuckle and guffaw, but recurrently exclaim: “No one is that dumb!” Likewise, and not as enjoyable if you are older than 13, they regularly cause us to opine that surely no adults could have such disgusting health habits.
Penned by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly with the help of Sean Anders, John Morris and Bennett Yellin, the insanity by committee is carefully pieced together, and a mite too self-conscious in its meshugana mission. However, in moments when Messrs. Carrey and Daniels have their missing brain cells misfiring on all eight cylinders and the nuttiness is flowing, it’s shades of comedy’s classic numskulls and dunces.
Reminiscent of the tried-and-true template The Three Stooges, Red Skelton and Abbott and Costello often employed, the directors insert their unwitting fools’ prattle and imprudence into a deadly serious scenario. But naturally, as experienced ad nauseam by the numerous funnymen who have fortuitously sidestepped falling pianos and villains’ daggers, G-d protects drunkards, fools and children. You know: dumb luck. We like such heartening pie-in-the-sky providence protecting the less fortunate from evil…the more outlandish, the better.
In this case, the nonsense is set in motion when Harry, thumbing through some mail he hasn’t perused in two decades, finds a postcard from former town slattern Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) informing she’s pregnant. Putting 2 and 3 together with the help of old pal Lloyd, recently emerged from the catatonic state he’s been in for twenty years, it appears Harry is an ancestor. So, of course it’s off to find the foundling, though the actual motivations hardly vouch for their character.
Just prior to his belated discovery of fatherhood, Harry informed Lloyd he was in need of a kidney. Lloyd abruptly declined. But now an albeit smudgy light bulb flickers above Harry’s head: He’ll find the surprise offspring and beg a kidney to save her dear old dad. Lloyd, equally altruistic, is instantly obsessed with the amorous possibilities posed by his best friend’s daughter.
As irony would have it, Penny (Rachel Melvin), the pretty gal whose every manner would suggest she’s a chip off the old biological blockhead, has been adopted by kind Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom), a Nobel laureate blissfully ignorant of Penny’s dimwittedness. But this obvious fact is not lost on cruel, mean Adele (Laurie Holden), the treacherous stepmom who, in cahoots with landscaper Travis (Rob Riggle), has been slowly poisoning the good doctor a la “Notorious” (1946).
When we meet them, the renowned scientist, understandably under the weather, is sending the blithe lass as his emissary to a conference of geniuses in El Paso where she will deliver a secret package purported to contain a breakthrough discovery he will gift the world…no charge. But Laurie has other plans. She figures it’s worth billions, and it’s just too bad if Penny is now added to her list of endangered relatives.
Then our dummies arrive. The dragon lady seizes the opportunity to make them complicit in her dirty work, to unknowingly filch the purported boon to mankind, the McGuffin as Hitchcock referred to such plot-motivating objects of desire. The clueless pair are sent chasing Penny, with Travis along to make sure Laurie’s nefarious bidding is done. Suffice it to note the worlds of smart and dumb will clash and, just in case you’ve somehow never witnessed this cliché, the Big Brains mistake Harry for Dr. Pinchelow. You fill in the rest.
No absurdity goes unturned and no insult to our intelligence is omitted as the Brothers Farrelly intricately and broadly explore every regressive and adolescent inanity to come down the cinema pike. It’s apt material for the Ph.D. thesis you’re writing on crude and vulgar taste, if that’s the excuse you’ll need to score some mindless laughs … a palate cleanser between post-apocalyptic downers. All my rocket scientist and brain surgeon pals are using that one. Or, be a smarty pants like me and say you surely wouldn’t see “Dumb and Dumber To” if you weren’t a film critic.
“Dumb and Dumber To,” rated PG-13, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly and stars Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels and Rachel Melvin. Running time: 109 minutes