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Published: Friday, 6/13/2003

Movie review: Dumb and Dumber


The funniest thing in Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd is Bob Saget. Of America's Funniest Home Videos fame. Of Full House fame. Sadly, Saget does not bring along episodes of those shows, laughter tsunamis by comparison. At the press screening, when Saget was off screen, the audience was so silent I could have done my taxes. At one point, again off screen, a man began coughing. He couldn't stop and one wondered if he had monkeypox, or if monkeypox causes a cough or a rash. Perhaps he just had a head cold. It's been such a chilly spring. Also, I had no watch on, and about 20 minutes into this 82-minute prequel to the 1994 comedy, a prequel no one asked for, I pondered if time was infinite. Will the universe collapse?

If the roof mercifully lifted off the theater, could one use the sun to tell time on a cloudy day?

Oh - you want reasons why Dumb and Dumberer is a comedy-free zone, why it's one of the more bizarre studio attempts at exploiting a long-past hit, why it's a kind of celebrity drag show.

First, some revisionist history: Contrary to what you heard, Dumb and Dumber was not the end of western civilization, but the first hint at a style Peter and Bobby Farrelly honed with Kingpin and perfected with There's Something About Mary.

They have a rare talent for both crossing the line of good taste and keeping a comedy good-natured.

Jim Carrey played bucktoothed Lloyd; it solidified him as a superstar. Jeff Daniels was giddy and ridiculous as Harry, dressed in valour turtlenecks. There's a great bit with a headless bird and a blind child.

Nearly a decade later, no one returned for the follow-up. The director is Troy Miller, who made Jack Frost, that one about a father who becomes a snowman. The Farrellys are not even mentioned in the credits. New Line owns the rights to the characters, and so they've taken a huge gulp and cast young actors to do impressions of Carrey and Daniels.

Now, the comedy: Incredibly, Family Circus comes to mind. Five minutes in, we see Harry as a child. His mother (Mimi Rogers, smiling through tears) explains that there's a big world out there to explore - just like Marco Polo. Harry responds, “Right, the guy who invented the swimming pool.”

A bit later, Harry (Derek Richardson) is in high school. It's 1986. He's been home-schooled and now he's about to have a public school education. He literally runs into Lloyd (Eric Christian Olsen), the janitor's kid, and chips a tooth. They bond. Lloyd tells Harry that he needs to meet Principal Collins (Eugene Levy, dead-eyed, cringing through tears).

“Who's Principal Collins?”

“Ha!” Lloyd says. “He's the principal.”

These are the jokes.

There are others: Lloyd covers himself in napkins and flaps his arms; a man runs into a football goal post; Harry and Lloyd play “Tag, You're It” for five minutes; they slurp slush drinks too fast; Harry wipes a melted Hershey's candy bar around a bathroom. About midway through the film, we get a montage of all the scenes we didn't laugh at the first time, 15 minutes ago.

Does anyone remember Cracked magazine? If Cracked was the cheaper version of Mad magazine, then Dumb and Dumberer is the unthinkable: a dumber version of Dumb and Dumber, an opportunistic rip-off without ingenuity or laughs. It has one thing going for it: Richardson and Olsen, who are uncannily convincing as young versions of Daniels and Carrey. They nail the tics, the voices, the faces. They're almost as dumb as the real thing.

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