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Dustin Putman

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Dumb and Dumber To  (2014)
2 Stars
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rachel Melvin, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Steve Tom, Tembi Locke, Paul Blackthorne, Michael Yama, Nancy Yee, Grant James, Taylor St. Clair, Don Lake, Patricia French, Lindsay Ayliffe, Eddie Shin, Atkins Estimond, Billy Snider, Brady Bluhm, Cam Neely, June Shannon.
2014 – 109 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 13, 2014.
Two full decades since its original release, "Dumb and Dumber"—the comedy hit that put writer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly (2012's "The Three Stooges") on the map—continues to hold up exceptionally well. Every bit as entertaining and pertly timed as it was in 1994, the film's key success lies in how smart it is at being intentionally inane and raucously bawdy. There also, of course, is the charm cooked up from its buddy pairing of Jim Carrey (2013's "Kick-Ass 2") and Jeff Daniels (2012's "Looper"); their half-witted characters of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne didn't have a lick of sense between them, but they were loyal to each other and kind of disarming in their supreme cluelessness. The wait was a long one, but the stars have aligned to reunite Carrey, Daniels and the Farrellys for a sequel that feels less like a cash grab and more like an affectionate reunion meant for fans of the original. It may not be quite as fresh overall, but it's still a worthy, at times uproarious, follow-up.

For twenty years, Harry (Jeff Daniels) has faithfully visited a catatonic Lloyd (Jim Carrey) at the psychiatric hospital where he was admitted after getting his heart broken by Mary Swanson. And then, in an instant, the truth comes out when Lloyd reveals he has been faking all this time, a practical joke taken to the incredible extreme. Harry finds his friend's gag hilarious, but has a more pressing matter to deal with: he needs a kidney transplant. His best hope is for a genetic (or as he puts it, "genital") donor match, so naturally he turns to his Asian parents. When that doesn't work out—he is shocked to learn they aren't his biological mom and dad—he thinks he is out of options until he discovers he conceived a child twenty-two years ago with one Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner). Fraida gave their daughter, Fanny, away as a baby, but Harry and Lloyd are determined to find her. Their madcap journey takes them from Maryland to Rhode Island to the prestigious KEN Conference in El Paso, Texas, where the sweet, dippy Fanny—now named Penny (Rachel Melvin)—is due to accept an award on behalf of her ill adoptive dad, revered scientist Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom).

"Dumb and Dumber To" follows a number of its predecessor's beats—a music cue here, a series of similar but tweaked road-trip mishaps there—while also bringing back some of the memorable side characters, like unsuspecting, bird-loving blind boy Billy (Brady Bluhm) and hot-tempered trucker Sea Bass (Cam Neely). Despite the protracted lag between installments—should we really even count 2003's distaff prequel "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd?"—the brothers Farrelly and their two lead actors pick right back up as if no time has passed at all. By retaining the same boisterous tone and sweet/raunchy mixture, the film makes it easier to overlook the occasional joke falling flat and unrealized comic situation. Meanwhile, a running subplot involving a highly valuable package Harry and Lloyd are given to deliver to the conference and the dastardly schemes to intercept it by Dr. Pinchelow's gold-digging wife Adele (Laurie Holden) and handyman Travis (Rob Riggle) is fodder for some clever payoffs. The introduction of Travis' abrasive loose-cannon military brother, the insistently camouflaged Captain Lippincott (Rob Riggle, again), is less welcome. A little of him goes a long way.

Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey are obviously having a ball reprising the frizzy-haired Harry and bowl-cut Lloyd. The characters may be physically older now, but these goofy doofuses more than prove that age does not always, in fact, breed wisdom. By committing so fully and trusting the Farrellys' zinger-heavy script, Daniels and Carrey exhibit a freedom and joy of performance that strikes as completely genuine. As "titanic whore" Fraida Felcher, Kathleen Turner (2014's "Nurse") is a game spitfire happily used as much more than just a one-note punchline. As unlikely as it might seem, this could be her best film role since 2000's "The Virgin Suicides." Also of note in a cheery supporting role, Tembi Locke (2011's "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star") proves to be an ideal straight (wo)man as Dr. Walcott, tasked with chaperoning Harry (whom everyone mistakenly believes is Dr. Pinchelow) around the KEN Conference. Locke's deadpan reaction shots to Harry and Lloyd's quirky antics provide some of the most sneakily funny moments in the movie. Finally, Rachel Melvin is the secret weapon of the project, comedically adept and enormously lovable as Harry's good-hearted, intellectually deficient long-lost daughter Penny. When she is on the screen, there's no choice but to pay attention.

"Dumb and Dumber To" doesn't reach the heights of hilarity in the third act for which it appears to be setting itself up, but there are more than a few laugh-out-loud scenes. One in which Harry and Lloyd make a very unexpected detour as they try to track down Penny from her home address written on an envelope is priceless, as is their surprise over the death of an old friend when they are sure the local newspaper stated that he was "survived by" his parents. Another quick interlude where they pass through Barbara Hershey Highway and the accompanying town dedicated to the namesake actress is so off the wall the viewer has to appreciate the movie's willingness to think outside the box. "Dumb and Dumber To" concludes with a double-whammy of revelations that cast the entire plot in a new, unforeseen, purposefully inconsequential light. As crazy and potentially maddening as it could have been for any other film, it works splendidly in context. After all, the picture's valiant celebration of stupidity is precisely its point.
© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman