I have been informed by a reliable source (my wife) that not all of us have a giggling 10-year-old boy buried inside our psyches. But I do, and he emerged to laugh at the inanities, profanities and calamities in “Dumb and Dumber To.”
Yes, stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have re-teamed with directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly 20 years after the first film. This one has less crudity, more characterization (I can’t say “heart,” as emotions get played for laughs) and a more relaxed quality than its predecessor.
The Farrellys wrote the script with four other credited writers and, I’d guess, a host of nameless ones. They even offer plot twists, including a big one I never saw coming. (Of course, I was using 6 percent of my brain at the time.) They haven’t had much box office success over the last decade and seem to be trying to reach a broader audience, while still playing to fans who enjoy crass comedy.
Harry (Daniels) informs Lloyd (Carrey) that he’s dying for want of a kidney. Harry is unhappily stunned to hear that his Chinese parents adopted him but happily stunned to find that a fling long ago with a tramp bore him a daughter he has never met.
Penny (Rachel Melvin), who’s as likeable a dunderhead as Harry, had the good luck to be adopted by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. He entrusts her to take a world-changing invention to a conference in Texas, so the dimwitted duo head to El Paso to introduce themselves and see if she’d like to give her biological dad a kidney. The scientist’s evil wife (Laurie Holden) and her lover (Rob Riggle) plan to whack everyone and market the invention themselves.
To report the jokes would be to ruin the movie’s one consistent pleasure. Nonetheless, I offer this as a sample. An official at the conference mistakes Harry for the Nobel-winner and assumes he’s some kind of odd savant.
Official: “Does Dr. Pinchelow have Asperger’s?”
Lloyd: “Probably. I know he doesn’t wipe very well.”
Carrey and Daniels have also been box-office poison for most of the last 10 years, but their chemistry endures. Lloyd has a stupidity laced with selfishness and arrogance – he can’t wait to have sex with Penny – but can also sacrifice for his pal. Harry exudes a hapless sweetness that makes being mistaken for a nutty genius barely possible.
Kathleen Turner gets the Self-Abasing Sport of the Year award for her role as the woman who bore Penny and gave her away. Turner, craggy-faced and portly, teases her former screen image as a siren and tries to use her aged allure to vamp an obviously gay man. (“I didn’t spend 34 years coming out of the closet to go into one again with you,” he says, spurning her suggestion of a tryst.)
You have to respect the Farrellys (yes, I used that verb and noun in the same sentence) for being willing to treat everyone with the same good-natured disrespect. We even get a Stephen Hawking joke at the conference, with a wheelchair-bound guy dressing down Lloyd and Harry through an electronic voice box.
At first, he’s the butt of the joke. Then they are, as he turns the tables. The Farrellys snatch the rug out from under everyone sooner or later, and there’s pleasure in watching them do it – if you can check your morals, sense of good taste and IQ at the door.