(On Cable TV, July 2016) There are many things I don’t like about stupid humour, and one of them is the way it curdles the older its practitioners are. Watching Jim Carrey and Jeff Bridges goof off in 1994 when they were in their thirties is bad enough, but seeing them act like big doofuses in 2014 when they’re in their fifties is adding a substantial layer of melancholy on something that’s already pretty sad. It gets worse considering how Dumb and Dumber To tries to bring in issues of fatherhood (flirting far too long with the stomach-churning idea of a character having designs on the other one’s daughter) in-between wasting one’s life on dumb jokes. The film starts badly, builds setpieces that aren’t as funny as the screenwriters think and sort of peters out at some point before the end. There are a few high notes, although one of them (the brief return of the iconic dog van) is notable in how quickly it speeds by. As in the original, dumb humour abounds, but very little of it has the kind of panache that made the first film so memorable and grudgingly funny. It doesn’t help that, in twenty years, the comedy zeitgeist has moved away from the original’s model. Carrey can’t very well return to the same kind of humour he did twenty years ago without looking ridiculous in unintended ways, while Bridges doesn’t completely abase himself. In that chaos of dumb taste, only Kathleen Turner emerges gracefully, although having one of the most level-headed characters in the film helps a lot. After so many modest efforts and all-out misfires, you’d think that the Farrelly Brothers would stop making movies at some point, but clearly the box office results show that I’m wrong and my opinions on the matter don’t mean anything. In the meantime, Dumb and Dumber To exists, and you only have yourself the blame if you end up watching it.
(Second viewing, On Cable TV, May 2016) I didn’t have very good memories of Dumb & Dumber, and a revisit twenty-some years later only highlights why: I don’t react well to deliberately dumb humour, and this film has enough of it to fill a trilogy. I spent the film’s first half-hour in an increasing state of self-loathing, wondering why I was re-watching it and feeling my IQ dropping every minute. Eventually (specifically during the diner scene where a seasoned criminal unsuccessfully try to kill the protagonists), I reached an equilibrium of sorts, and the film finally started feeling funny. Not exceptionally funny, but funny enough to coast until the end. Jim Carrey does deliver a remarkable performance (alongside Ace Ventura and The Mask, it’s part of his astonishing 1994 breakout year), and seeing Jeff Bridges abase himself so low does have an interest of its own. The humour is dumb enough that it’s easy to forget that two skilled comedians (the Farrelly Brothers) wrote this stuff, but some of the film’s more outlandish moments (such as the fantasy sequences, or the living-large segment) do show some invention going beyond the dumb humour. I’m not going to claim that I was seduced by the results, but Dumb & Dumber does become good enough to escape the confines of its chosen dumb-jokes subgenre, and it’s that kind of success that highlights a better-than-average effort. This being said, I’m more than OK with the thought that I may not have to watch this again for another twenty years.
(On TV, March 2016) The touch of the Farrely brothers is obvious in Stuck on You, another of their comedies in which disability is seen sympathetically, North-eastern United States represents and comedy springs from uncomfortable situations. To wit: Stuck on You is about conjoined twins linked at the hip, and how they try to achieve one of them’s success as a Hollywood actor. As a physical comedy, Stuck on You milks a lot of laughs from suggesting the practical reality of its characters (one of them donning black clothes as the other perform a one-man show, the other wearing a teddy bear suit in bed when the other meets a romantic prospect), then goes for gentle Hollywood satire when a truly awful TV show becomes a rating darling. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear are rather good in thankless roles, while Cher gets a few laughs in a relatively unflattering role. (Eva Mendes and Meryl Streep also show up successfully in small roles) Stuck on You is a film of small moments rather than overall storytelling: the plot is familiar, the beats are predictable and what sets it apart is some degree of success in delivering the small laughs that populate the larger but blander framework. In retrospect, it’s almost amazing that Stuck on You manages to last more than ninety minutes without quite wearying what could have been a one-note premise. Interestingly enough, the film manages to avoid most gross-out gags, which may be surprising given some of the Farrelly Brothers’ filmography. But they would have been out of place in a film that generally plays things sweetly and without meanspiritedness. Better than it could have been, Stuck on You isn’t particularly sophisticated entertainment, but it holds its own against most odds.