The summer of 2003 will probably be remembered best for resurrecting long
dormant franchises. Audiences had to wait four years for "The Matrix" to be
reloaded, eight years for the "Bad Boys" to blow things up again, and a whopping 12
years for the Terminator to reappear and rise against the machines. But those
are all shake-n-bake action films tailor made for endless sequels; 1994's
"Dumb and Dumber," on the other hand, was an inconsequential comedy before
release, and ended up with huge box office grosses. It also featured the debut
of the Farrelly Brothers as directors, and solidified Jim Carrey's career as
king of comedies. So what does New Line Cinema have in store for audiences
who've been slavishly waiting 9 years for a follow-up? Well, they didn't bother
to hire any of the original creative team back, brought in unknowns to replace
them, and have produced a prequel that defiantly sets out to destroy every
single nuance that made the arguably classic original such a beloved comedy.
We're traveling back to 1986, with Harry Dunne (Derek Richardson) and Lloyd
Christmas (Eric Christian Olsen, "The Hot Chick") back in high school, generally
making nuisances of themselves. When evil Principal Collins (Eugene "House
Payment" Levy) plots a scheme to defraud the local community out of $100,000, he
needs some students to pose as "special needs" children to help sell the scheme.
Of course Harry and Lloyd sign up for the opportunity to represent their school,
and soon become caught up in the shady dealings, never quite catching on to what's really going on.
Love them or hate them, at least the Farrelly Brothers had a unique touch with
their original material. The Brothers brought a sweetness to Harry and Lloyd,
and for every three gross-out gags or comedic misunderstandings, there was a
scene of genuine emotional resonance to temper the diarrhea set pieces. "Dumb
And Dumber" might not have been a classy production, but it had a big heart, and
even bigger laughs. "Dumberer" (IMDb listing) is an inferior and greedy knockoff, relentlessly
reproducing the Farrelly picture to a point where I was positive they were just
running footage from the first film. Director and co-screenwriter Troy Miller
("Jack Frost" and the unreleased Mr. Show film, "Run Ronnie Run") is under the
impression that the crowds showed up in large quantities back in 1994 just for
the cheap laughs, so he's filled the entire film with them here. Miller treats
the previous creation as a blueprint to steal from, taking an assortment
of bodily fluid scenes and replicating them here (Harry's bathroom problems,
Lloyd's elaborate fantasies).
Miller also makes the mistake of treating Lloyd
and Harry as true idiots, where as the Farrellys created an entire insulated
world free of outside abuse for the duo to exist in. This makes the film one
long gag instead of something engaging and just a tiny bit loveable. Miller had
the opportunity to take the Farrelly film and build on it with even more
absurdity, but he was content to shadow the original meticulously and play to the
broader audience that is only paying to see Harry soil himself and hear Bob
"Full House" Saget swear repetitively.
Equally as lazy as the screenwriting is the time period where Miller has set the
film. 1986 is the year listed in the opening title cards, yet there is little
1986 lying around in the film. Maybe a period jacket here and there, but you see
a lot of extras with modern hair, the main characters using modern slang, and
hear some of the latest tunes on the soundtrack. Before you say, "Heavens, this
is 'Dumb and Dumberer,' Brian! What do you expect?" I reply with this: Miller
picked the time period, and he could've exploited it for all it was worth (like
"The Wedding Singer" did). Instead, the potential of 1986 just lies there,
waiting for some background object or actor to give it away in every frame.
The only minor revelation of "Dumberer" is Eric Christian Olsen's manically
obedient impression of Jim Carrey. It's remarkable to behold the way Olsen has
trained himself to mimic every minute movement Carrey perfected in "Dumber."
Occasionally the reproduction is too perfect, bringing up thoughts of a film
that might have been had New Line been more aggressive in getting the real
talent back to make a sequel. But Olsen's mastery of the madcap Carrey way is
often entertaining enough to bring some smiles into a film that seems like it's
created to do the opposite.
Filmfodder Grade: D-