DUMB AND DUMBER TO
***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B-
starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden
screenplay by Sean Anders & John Morris and Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly & Bennett Yellin & Mike Cerrone
directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
**/**** Image B+ Sound A Extras C-
starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston
screenplay by Sean Anders & John Morris
directed by Sean Anders
by Bill Chambers The Farrelly Brothers' Dumb and Dumber To opens with Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas emerging from twenty years of catatonia. As the trailers were eager to give away, he's just been playing an elaborate hoax on best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), but still: point taken. To put things in perspective, more time elapsed between Dumb and Dumber and its sequel than did between The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III, and the popular form--along with the popular taste in--movie comedy has changed significantly in the interim. This is the Rip Van Winkle of franchises, squarely un-hip no matter how evergreen is its scatological humour; the filmmakers, ultimately to their credit, value tonal continuity with Dumb & Dumber over blending in. With a plot revolving around a McGuffin that felt rickety when the first one did it in 1994, the picture embraces the quaint charms of the old school to ironically novel effect.
In silhouette, in fact, Dumb and Dumber To is indistinguishable from its predecessor. Harry and Lloyd take another road trip to deliver another mysterious package to another beautiful woman and are briefly joined on their odyssey by another apoplectic henchman (Rob Riggle, a guy so ubiquitous he's twins here) stopped short by the duo's lethal idiocy. Blind Billy (Brady Bluhm) returns as an adult with a whole collection of birds for Harry and Lloyd to cause the demise of instead of just the one. (In my favourite gag in the film, because I'm intellectually twelve years old, Harry's meth-eating cat Butthole--so named because he has a butthole, duh--flatulates a big gust of feathers.) All things considered, however, the sequel-inflation rate is modest. They add another big name to the cast, for instance, but it's '80s box-office queen Kathleen Turner, who weathers a barrage of fourth-wall-pushing jokes about her faded beauty to emerge with her dignity, or something like it, intact. Turner plays the erstwhile town whore Fraida Felcher, who's settled into a lonesome existence as the operator of a funeral parlour. When Harry discovers he's the father of the daughter Fraida regrets giving up for adoption, he and Lloyd offer to track her down on Fraida's behalf. What they really want to do is ask the now college-aged girl, Penny (Rachel Melvin, Parker Posey reincarnate), for a kidney, since Harry needs a transplant and has no other blood relatives.
The obligatory hilarity ensues, but mortality casts an undeniable pall over the film, which replaces the memorable Mutt Cuts dog-grooming van with a hearse as Harry and Lloyd's primary means of travel. Penny's adoptive father, the esteemed Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom), is being slowly poisoned, Sixth Sense-style, by his gold-digging wife (Laurie Holden, Carrey's love interest in The Majestic). A more minor thread sees Harry and Lloyd visiting the childhood home of an old friend who, unbeknownst to them, died years ago in a motorcycle accident Lloyd may have indirectly caused. And the slapstick leaves scars on these middle-aged bodies, as Harry and Lloyd sustain life-altering injuries that bring the hovering spectre of death that much closer to the pair, who have after all set out on a quest to reverse Harry's terminal diagnosis. The movie, then, edges into the territory of the Farrellys' post-Dumb & Dumber work, when their high-concepts glinted with tragedy (think of Stuck on You's conjoined twins risking death or, worse, solitude, by surgically separating), although in and of themselves Harry and Lloyd can't support the weight of pathos. While moments, particularly the resolution to that seemingly throwaway subplot about the dead friend, can be moving despite their dissonance (a Farrelly hallmark), they're always cursory to the central duo, who are unrepentant in their squandering of years on foolish pranks, openly hostile towards reflections of their age (e.g., Fraida), and insulated from harsh reality by not only their wilful ignorance, but a perpetual fog of nostalgia as well. If Dumb and Dumber To escapes feeling like the anachronism it is, it's partly because Harry and Lloyd have come to embody a fairly scathing caricature of the modern man-child.
Carrey's performance strikes new notes of bitterness both apt for a character who's grown surly in the way of people who don't progress for one reason or another, and "meta"-feeling, given that the actor's essentially landed back at square one after decades of struggling to branch out, though it's important to note that Carrey himself instigated the project and that, whatever frustrations he may have about typecasting, he attacks the role with gusto. Everything old seems vital again in Dumb and Dumber To. It's a gloriously written film, with jokes that are crafted rather than excavated from reams of on-set improvisation1; the success of the punchlines is scattershot and up for debate (connoisseurs of the Borscht belt should find much to admire, but a rehash of Lloyd's lovesick daydream flatlines, due in no small part to an overestimation of the comic chops and kitsch appeal of Honey Boo-Boo's mom), yet there is something bracing about its structural classicism after the last few years of watching the Church of Apatow whack off. Could it portend the beginning of a new cycle? Scripted, poetically enough, by the co-writers of Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2--the kind of sequel that wouldn't get greenlit if executives put a damp finger to the wind once in a while instead of assuming any success presupposes an appetite for seconds--at the very least meekly sounds the death knell for the last one.
In a move that takes commendable chutzpah in light of The Hangover Part III's conceptual departure backfiring, the returning Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day)--whose names you're supposed to say in quick succession for racist yuks--have become entrepreneurs, inventing a gizmo that will ostensibly revolutionize the shower industry. When a ruthless tycoon (Christoph Waltz, adrift without Tarantino) screws them over, they decide to kidnap his dickhead son (Chris Pine), who turns the tables on them by going along with it. The title, of course, no longer makes sense, and O.G. "horrible bosses" Kevin Spacey (whose disengagement is palpable long before it's revealed that he's reading his lines off a piece of paper in a closing-credits outtake) and Jennifer Aniston have only an ornamental application in the narrative. Minor fissures, though, compared to the one created by the grim business of Pine's strained relationship with his father, which is like seeing some Sophocles shoehorned into a Three Stooges short.2 Having said all that, I marginally preferred Horrible Bosses 2 to the original, because the sheer volume of idle chatter among the dudebro leads results in a higher laugh quotient, and their collective intellect has dipped to base-gratifying Homer Simpson levels. (Could be the Dumb & Dumber influence.) Still, there's so much talk that it's practically radio--Morning Zoo Crew: The Movie.
THE BLU-RAY DISCS
Universal's Dumb and Dumber To and Warner's Horrible Bosses 2 look comparably handsome on Blu-ray. Both films were shot with the ARRI Alexa though at different aspect ratios, so it might be something of a placebo effect that the wider Horrible Bosses 2 seems slightly more cinematic. Lacking the not-unpleasant video noise that sometimes graces the image on Horrible Bosses 2, Dumb and Dumber To's 1.85:1, 1080p transfer has a borderline televisual appearance but despite a certain flatness in the blacks sports better shadow detail than the sometimes-crushed 2.40:1, 1080p presentation of Horrible Bosses 2. Although the films share a palette of bold greens and cinnamon flesh tones, the source used for Horrible Bosses 2 betrays some inconsistency, perhaps indecisiveness, in its colour management. Each movie gets a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track; in the sense that Dumb and Dumber To doesn't get a chance to showboat with a big action sequence, it's the less impressive-sounding of the two, but they're on a par technically. Horrible Bosses 2, for what it's worth, offers a seamless-branching option to watch either the theatrical version or an extended cut that bloats the running time by 8 minutes without impacting the movie's R rating.
HD bonus material on Dumb and Dumber To launches with "That Was Easy" (2 mins.), an extended opening that is for some reason quarantined from the "Deleted/Extended Scenes" proper, which number eight in total. Only one of these elisions--a walk-on by Google CEO Eric Schmidt--constitutes an authentic deleted scene, and to be honest I didn't notice any of the additional footage in the remainder, save a different tag to Lloyd obliviously winning the lottery. Next comes a five-part behind-the-scenes documentary, "'That's Awesome!'-The Story of Dumb and Dumber To" (45 mins.), that frames comments from cast and crew with the wearying device of fans quoting lines from and extolling the virtues of the first Dumb & Dumber. Nevertheless, it's a serviceable, well-organized piece that has the laid-back vibe of a Farrelly Brothers set. We learn that Turner pursued the role upon discovering the Farrellys had written "a Kathleen Turner type" into the screenplay (next to a few less-flattering descriptors, alas), though she disappointingly has the least to say of anybody. I was surprised to discover that while Riggle had a double for the fireworks stunt, Carrey and Daniels did not; and I personally enjoyed a segment interviewing editor Steven Rasch, who came to the picture by way of Larry David and reveals that Carrey held a lot of sway in the cutting room, although he praises the actor's objectivity. "What's So Smart About Dumb and Dumber To" (6 mins.) steers the discussion towards apologia as the likes of Daniels and producer Bradley Thomas reflect on the societal importance of comedy, sounding a lot like Joel McCrea at the end of Sullivan's Travels in the process. Lastly, an 8-minute "Gag Reel" is the usual flubbed lines, missed cues, and, in the case of Daniels, a TV star lamenting his recent Emmy win for more serious stuff. Universal bundles the BD with DVD and digital copies of the film.
The HiDef supplementals section on Horrible Bosses 2 is more a repository for stray ad libs and ancillary sketches. "Endless Laughter Guaranteed!" (17 mins.) is an indeed endless sycophantic roundelay with one arguably interesting tidbit: that a generally game Aniston felt the line "I don't mind a little gravy on my beef" crossed her personal threshold. "Let the Sexual Healing Begin" (2 mins.) allows gifted but short-shrifted day players like Lennon Parham to reclaim lost screentime, in character, as members of the sex-addict support group Aniston's nymphomaniac hosts in the film. Were it only funny. "Who Invented the Shower Buddy?" (1 min.) is a non-starter featuring in-character interviews with Kurt and Dale, who agree that Dale invented the shower buddy but diverge on the particulars. Not funny, either. "Nick Kurt Dale INC.: Employee Testimonials" (2 mins.) features one Spanish speaker, the humour of which is apparently self-evident. Despite a(n, again, in-character) cameo by the reliable Keegan-Michael Key, "It's the Shower Buddy - Infomercial" (1 min.) mainly proves that "infomercial" has corrupted/supplanted the word "commercial" the same way "reboot" means "remake" in today's discourse. "High Speed Crash Course" (3 mins.) switches gears, no pun intended, to cover the car chase--which Bateman pushed for, according to director Sean Anders. The bit about the production failing to inform the actors before the gimbal did a 90° tilt is funnier than any of the actual attempts to be funny in these extras. Finally, "Off the Cuff: One-Liners You Didn't See" is an umbrella heading for a whopping thirteen blocks of impromptu riffing running 1-2 minutes apiece. Many of the best ones are featured in the aforementioned "Endless Laughter Guaranteed!", while still others made it into the Blu-ray's exclusive Extended Cut. The theatrical cut is also available via the included DVD and download code.
1. It occurs to me that comedies, like porno flicks, became more purely exploitative of their performers' talents once they were no longer being shot on film.
2. The wasted presence of Beverly Hills Cop's Jonathan Banks serves to remind that the '80s were, if nothing else, good or better at this sort of juggling act. That said, there is one inexplicably great, seriocomic scene in which Pine remembers his maid's birthday but insultingly gifts her with a plunger. The tenderness and the cruelty ring equally true; there's a soul there, unfortunately dwarfed by the misanthropic instincts of privilege. Dimensional bad guy, in any event.