Outspoken economist Jonathan Gruber made headlines last week with his controversial assessment of Americans. That was before “Dumb and Dumber To” — the imbecilic sequel to the ridiculous 1991 Farrelly brothers’ classic — topped the box office. Now I’m not sure what to think.
I admit to being a fan of the original, with a premise and caricatures so preposterously dumb that it was hysterical. Jim Carrey was at his best, and for Jeff Daniels (see sidebar) then known mostly for dramatic roles in “Speed” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” it was an intriguing change-up.
With the concept no longer original, its leads two decades older and the Farrelly brothers riding a streak of misses like “The Three Stooges” and “Hall Pass,” I didn’t have high expectations. Good thing.
Under the ruse of needing a new kidney, Harry (played by Daniels) convinces Lloyd (played by Carrey) to track down the daughter he didn’t know he had but whom he learns has since been given-up for adoption by her mother: Harry’s one-time girlfriend Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner).
So in a borrowed hearse, and later in a Zamboni, the two travel to a tech conference in El Paso where daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin) is accepting an award on behalf of the scientist whom she believes is her father.
The chemistry between Harry and Lloyd is still there, and after a few minutes you even forget how old they look and stop wondering why even after all these years they’re still such morons. But this one’s weak story makes the original’s “get the briefcase back to Mary Swanson” look like “Citizen Kane.” I know, I know, it’s not about the plot. It’s about the nostalgic pairing and if there are a few laughs, all the better. Well, there are a few laughs. A few.
Rob Riggle playing twins adds a smidge of intrigue. Brady Bluhm is back as the suffering bird lover “Billy the Blind Kid.” So there’s that.
Most of the fun comes from the conference where Harry, who presents himself to organizers as Penny’s father, is mistaken for an eccentric genius at one point tussling with a Stephen Hawking-like character. But otherwise the laughs are inconsistent.
My bar was low for this one so I wasn’t disappointed and I suspect fans of the original won’t be either.
But if you’re not a fan, odds are maybe one in a million you’ll like it.
So, yeah, I’m saying there’s a chance.
Med City Movie Guy rating: 2 Honks
Smarter Jeff Daniels
D&D’s Harry Dunne is handily the most bizarre character the critically-acclaimed Daniels has played. Here are a few of my favorites:
Something Wild. This romantic road comedy paired Daniels as a stuffed-shirt conservative with a wild and free Melanie Griffith. Believe it or not, from director of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia” Jonathan Demme.
The Purple Rose of Cairo. Daniels literally jumps off the screen in this Woody Allen Depression-era comedy.
Arachnophobia. Remember this one? It did for damp crawlspaces what “Jaws” did for beaches. Daniels is a tarantula’s worst nightmare, a family physician with a nail-gun.
Speed. A solid action film that co-starred Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and apparently the only metro bus in the country that goes faster than 20 mph.
2 Days in the Valley. A “Pulp Fiction” knock-off, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Daniels is a veteran vice cop and Eric Stoltz his rookie partner against the backdrop of a contract killing. Respectable cast included Danny Aiello, Teri Hatcher, Paul Mazursky, James Spader and introduced Charlize Theron.