THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Whenever a sequel comes out years after the original and features no one from the original cast, I can only believe that a certain desperation has set in at the studio. Because really, at that point, they’re just trading on the name. In 1995, Bobby and Peter Farrelly launched their careers with Dumb and Dumber - a frequently hilarious comedy that also helped propel Jim Carrey’s career into the stratosphere. Eight years later, we get the “prequel,” aptly titled Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Because the movie takes place during the characters’ teenage years, Carrey and co-star Jeff Daniels are nowhere to be found. What, then, was the purpose of this film? It’s not like Harry and Lloyd were beloved cinematic characters; it was the actors who made the movie strike a chord. What is left without them?

Set in 1986, the film shows how Lloyd Christmas (Eric Christian Olsen) and Harry Dunne (Derek Richardson) became friends after literally running into each other one day. Lloyd lives in the high school building with his custodian dad (Luis Guzman), whereas Harry is a home-schooled student entering the public education system for the first time. Both are idiots beyond complete belief, so their bonding is natural. Most of their free time involves doing things like aggravating the guy behind the counter at the local convenience store.

Meanwhile, school principal Collins (Eugene Levy) concocts a plan to swindle money so he can run off with his mistress, lunch lady Ms. Heller (Cheri Oteri). By forming a “special needs class,” they can earn thousands of dollars in grant money. Collins enlists Harry and Lloyd to be the first students in the bogus class; when the check comes in, Collins and Heller plan to run off with it. A perky reporter for the school paper named Jessica senses that something is going on and starts to investigate. Harry falls in love with her.

There are a few scattered moments that made me laugh in Dumb and Dumberer, but most of them went over the heads of the teenage audience I saw the film with. For example, when Collins tells Heller he has a surprise for her, the horny lunch lady glances at his crotch and replies: “You got the extender?” Some of the jokes are more obvious, such as when Lloyd tells Harry it’s better to drink a Slurpee fast because it’s so cold; this leads to a massive case of “brain freeze.” There is also a hysterically funny cameo from Bob Saget as Jessica’s father. (What does that say when Bob Saget is the funniest thing in the movie?)

Most of the jokes are either tired or outright lame, though. The original film had a script by the Farrelly brothers that was smart masquerading as dumb. This one is merely dumb. There’s little of the subversive wit or token outrageousness that is part of the Farrelly formula. They are masters of the comic punchline; trying to outdo them is like trying to beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one. Dumb and Dumberer certainly throws a lot of jokes at the wall, and while a few of them do stick, too many fall to the floor. While I found the film easy to sit through, it just wasn’t funny enough.

There’s one other thing to consider: the actors are basically painted into a corner, forced to ape the performances of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. To their credit, Eric Christian Olsen and Derek Richardson do brilliant jobs mimicking the stars of the original film (especially Olsen who looks and moves just like Carrey). However, because they have to capture the essence of what Carrey and Daniels created, there isn’t a lot of room for them to add anything else to the mix. They are locked into doing impersonations. I admired the skill with which they did the impersonations, but the inherent lack of innovation or emotion made Harry and Lloyd seem less interesting, less amusing. For all the self-proclaimed “dumbness” in the original, I cared about the characters because of how ingeniously they were played. It’s near impossible to achieve the same thing with a mere impersonation, no matter how skillfully it’s done.

Of course, the best comedies are the ones that leave you sore with laughter. The worst are painful in an altogether different way. Dumb and Dumberer falls somewhere in the middle. No one embarrasses himself here, and I suspect the two young stars may generate some career heat from the film. The fact of the matter, though, is that if I sat down and watched Dumb and Dumber for a fourth time, I would certainly laugh at it more often than I laughed at this amiable-but-unnecessary sequel.

( out of four)

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd is rated PG-13 for crude and sex related humor and language. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

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