Dumb and Dumber To (2014)

Dumb and Dumber To, IMDbReleased: November 14, 2014. Directed by: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden. Runtime: 1 hr., 49 min.

In 1994, ignorance was bliss for Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). In 2014, it’s still endearing, and they maintain the same level of innocence but they are more obnoxious. They make arm fart noises and try to get the crowd to call the speaker a nerd at a sort-of TED talk. It misses, though the joke could be their harsh misjudgment of the situation.

Harry (Jeff Daniels) is still the innocent one. Daniels is able to fall back into his character, even though he seems rusty until ten minutes pass. After twenty years, that’s expected. Lloyd still puts his needs before anyone else, dead or alive. Carrey is occasionally over-the-top, but he has a blast portraying the character. The film is kept alive by the actor’s chemistry when there are periodic, unfunny lulls.

After twenty years, a Lloyd, who now looks like a hermit, is at a mental hospital. He’s upset about not getting with Mary Swanson and he has been sitting in a wheelchair with a blank stare into nothingness. It turns out, he has been joking this entire time to prank Harry.

Harry needs a kidney and thinks he needs it from a family member and not just a blood type match. When he finds a letter from old flame Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) that states she is pregnant, he sets off to find the daughter he never knew. And meanwhile, he can hit her up for a kidney.

Lloyd is attracted to the daughter and decides to tag along. They find her in El Paso, Texas, after stopping in Maryland at her house. They meet her adoptive father and have to hand deliver an important invention that she forgot to bring. The pair get mixed up in a murder plot where they are one of the targets.

It’s formulaic, but in the spirit of the original film. I can understand that the Farrelly brothers want to emulate the intense success of the original cult pleasure, but comedy sequels have proven time and time again that it’s difficult to recreate the magic twice. The writers actually repeat five jokes from the original. They largely follow the original’s premise to a tee and it disables any room for innovation because of that.

Some repeated choices are charming – particularly the repeated song of the Apache Indian’s “Boom Shack-a-Lack”. It’s a pleasant, nostalgic moment. I do like some music decisions by the film’s composer, the band Empire of the Sun. Songs like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” are obvious, but effective. They tie scenes together.

Harry gets a fantasy sequence which depicts what type of father he would have been to Penny. Lloyd’s fantasy sequence is just as violent as the first one – where his fantasy of being with Penny mirrors his one with Mary Swanson.

The defense of his girl’s honour is still creative. The daughter, Penny, portrayed by Rachel Melvin, is dumber than a doornail. Melvin can’t display much talent because she is give a character with very little depth. The character’s stupidity isn’t endearing – it is more often annoying.

Lloyd and Harry treat Fraida Felcher with a distinct meanness, which just isn’t in good spirits. The joke is that the beautiful young woman experienced the reverse ugly duckling and changed into one. The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden portrays a character named Adele who is married to Pinchelow. She doesn’t get any depth. She works with a sneer throughout but doesn’t get any laughs.

Rob Riggle is the main villain. He plays two characters – a handyman named Travis and then his twin brother, Captain Lippincott, a military figure who has camouflage expertise. This enables cool displays of make-up and great attention to detail.

When the film’s humour misses, it’s awkward – like a kid trying too hard to be funny. It’s frustrating when the Farrelly brothers take the joke too far, it’s like they don’t know the boundaries of utter grossness. They might be going for a shock factor but it’s unnecessary.

The humour doesn’t have that shadow of intelligence behind the stupidity like the original. Much of the jokes don’t flow as well as the original because the plot isn’t quite coherent.

The most negatively astounding thing about the film is that the entire narrative falls apart at the end within a matter of ten minutes. It’s frustrating because many plot aspects are forfeited for either convenience or for a half-assed joke. It makes the road to the end completely irreverent. It’s a creative decision that I will never be able to get behind.

Score60/100

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The Lorax (2012)

The Lorax

Release Date: March 2, 2012

Director(s): Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda

Stars (voices): Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito

Runtime: 86 min

Tagline: From the creators of Despicable Me.

In the walled city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and good air costs money, a 12-year old boy named Ted (Zac Efron) wants to find a tree, so he could win the heart of the much older Audrey (Taylor Swift). When he learns of trees outside of his city, he sets out to find the Once-ler. When the Once-ler tells him the story of his unfortunate greed for money, Ted gets it in his mind that he’s going to reverse it. The mayor of the town, Mr. O’Hare, is one of the only forces that stand in his way.

One can tell that this is obviously by the creators of Despicable Me, because of the adorable bears and fish and such characters that have very similar voices to those of the minions. Also, Mr. O’Hare is about one foot tall, so he may be just a little smaller than those minions. Did the production company not have enough money to make him tall? It’s just a little silly.

The message it’s trying to teach kids is, don’t be greedy. If you’re greedy, it will only lead to bad things. Protect the environment. Speaking of the environment, it really does have a strong expression of saying, protect the environment. The film is not only trying to get this message across to children, but to adults, too.

There isn’t a lot of content to carry this film. It’s one Dr. Seuss story that should have remained untouched. The character of Ted is okay, one can understand his motivations, but he isn’t particularly interesting, and he certainly isn’t lead boy material. The only interesting character of modern-day Thneed-Ville is Grammy Norma, voiced by the energetic Betty White. She is the heart of present day Thneed-Ville. The character of Mr. O’Hare is not interesting, nor is his plot line. Who likes a story of a greedy little one foot-tall man selling air? Not I, because this is simply one of the most uninteresting things I have heard of. This all being said, when the Lorax, the much younger Once-ler, and those singing fish and those absolutely adorable bears, are not present, the film really does suffer. They are the emotional heart of the film. There’s a reason this film is not called Ted and Audrey, or Mr. O’Hare’s a Greedy and Creepy Dwarf.

The Once-ler really isn’t generally a greedy man, it was mostly his family that brainwashed him. They reminded me of that family of Hilary Swank’s character from Million Dollar Baby, because when he was out of trees and couldn’t make any more thneeds, they just threw him to the dust and disowned him.

Most of these actors proved that they are not cut out for doing voices for animation. Taylor Swift and Zac Efron, especially. I didn’t see any hint of them altering their voices to make their characters sound more fun. Rob Riggle was just okay as Mr. O’Hare, but he wasn’t very memorable. Danny DeVito and Ed Helms were actually pretty good at doing voicework, and they were quite hysterical. Though, the really only stand-out and memorable voice of the bunch is the lovable Betty White.

The Lorax doesn’t home enough interesting characters or a particularly interesting story to make this flow well and go through the motions in an impressive way. The animation is quite nice, and the messages that it wants to teach children are just okay. The Lorax doesn’t offer anything very impressive, and it won’t stand out in the running of the Oscars’ Best Animated Feature.

60/100