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Dumb and Dumber To

Imagine for a moment that 2003’s disastrous “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” never happened and that 1994’s hilarious “Dumb and Dumber” was left untainted as a comedy classic. Having laid dormant for 20 years, would a resurrection of those characters in a not-particularly-asked-for sequel work? The humorously titled “Dumb and Dumber To” is here to answer that question and, sadly, it’s a mixed bag. If the original film can be considered a classic while the ill-advised prequel exemplifies bottom-of-the-barrel comedy, then “Dumb and Dumber To” rests squarely in between.

The catalyst that gets our dimwitted duo out on the road again involves a discovery that Harry (Jeff Daniels), against all odds, has a grown daughter. It turns out that an evening he spent with the beautiful Fraida, who has since grown into an old bag played by Kathleen Turner, produced a baby. So he, along with Lloyd (Jim Carrey), who has spent the last 20 years in a psychiatric hospital just so he could play a joke on Harry, sets out to meet her at an upcoming convention where she will be speaking. Along with them is Travis (Rob Riggle) and a box of unimaginable worth, the contents of which could change the world forever. However, Travis has an ulterior motive, and only dumb luck is going to protect Harry and Lloyd and get them where they need to go.

Which is, of course, the entire conceit of the movie. As with the first film, the duo is oblivious to what is actually going on around them as they stumble into different scenarios that play out in ways that could only be dreamed up in a Hollywood screenplay. Luckily, those scenarios are relatively entertaining, even if they include some unnecessary shoehorning in of characters and props from the first movie. You’ll remember the “pretty bird” blind kid, the Mutt Cutts van and more, though they appear for mere minutes, if that, before disappearing into oblivion. While these moments serve as welcome fanfare for those that remember watching the original 20 years ago, they nevertheless do little to enhance the overall movie.

Many jokes from the first film are repeated as well, but there’s plenty of new content here to make up for it. Aside from a handful of set-ups that pay off later in the film, gags come fast and furious and both Carrey and Daniels, who are now in their 50s, are game to pull them off. Neither of them have missed a beat in the gap between movies, particularly Carrey, who is just as absurd as you remember him. “Dumb and Dumber To” often falls back on slapstick, which I consider to be the lowest form of humor, but if there’s anyone that can pull it off, it’s Jim Carrey and Daniels perfectly complements him. Even at the film’s worst, they’re fascinating to watch together.

What else can really be said about this movie? Sometimes it’s funny, other times it’s not, but it knows what it’s doing. These are dumb characters in dumb situations doing dumb things and making dumb jokes, which is the entire point. “Dumb and Dumber To” doesn’t advertise itself as anything else and delivers exactly what people going to see it will want. If you’re one of those people and can set the proper expectations, there’s no doubt enjoyment will be had. This is no classic, but “Dumb and Dumber To” is good for some cheap laughs.

Dumb and Dumber To receives 3/5


Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from recent movies like Cars 2 and this week’s Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, it’s that creating an environmentally friendly message is very hard to do without coming off as preachy. If Cars 2 shoved its message down your throat, The Lorax beats you over the head with it. While there’s certainly something to be said about industrialization and its negative effects on the environment, The Lorax fails to bring it forth with resonance.

The film follows a young kid named Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) who lives in the town of Thneed-Ville. In his town, no living trees exist and to survive, air must be bought from business mogul and mayor, Mr. O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle). Ted has a crush on a pretty girl named Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift) who longs to get away from the artificiality of their town’s blow-up plants and see a real tree. Perhaps naively, Ted figures the only way he’ll get Audrey to reciprocate his feelings is to find one, so he ventures outside of his town, which has been closed off from the rest of the world. Out there, he finds nothing but environmental destruction and eventually runs into a man called the Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) who recounts his introduction to the guardian of the land, the Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito), and how his invention began the destruction of what used to be a lively paradise.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax has good intentions, as most kids movies do. It tries to entertain the young ones in the audience with songs and colorful visuals while also, in its own goofy way, opening their eyes to the beauty of nature and the dangers of deforestation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that and while I certainly don’t feel adamant enough about it to tell you not to take your child to see it, The Lorax over-emotionalizes its message to an intense degree. In an early scene, for example, after the Once-ler cuts down his first tree, the animals of the forest place symbolic mourning rocks around the tree and hold hands while slow, somber music begins to bellow from the speakers. Though it still would have been too much later in the film, it would have fit more appropriately after the full destruction of the forest. Its placement at such an early stage and after one tree is cut down is more comical than it is sad.

When not shamefully overstating the loss of a tree or laying on thick the destruction of a whole forest, The Lorax tries to be funny, but most of its humor consists of something or someone running into or hitting something or someone else. If you counted the number of times something like this happened to a character, be they human or animal, it would easily reach double digits by the halfway point, perhaps even sooner (much sooner) than that. Here is a movie that aims to tackle a real world problem, albeit in an emotionally over-the-top way, but then dumbs down everything surrounding the problem, essentially making a mockery of it. In simpler terms, the film’s message is too heavy while its humor is too light and those two extremes simply don’t work well together.

What really hurts the film, more than its stupid humor and overwrought themes, is its surprising lack of imagination, especially considering the name attached to it. For example, in the forest that is eventually destroyed, exactly three species of animals exist: geese, bears and fish. That’s it. All the wonderful creativity from other Dr. Seuss stories is missing here. The movie’s world isn’t vividly realized, the forest’s inhabitants are bland and the story, which consists mainly of flashback and little present day conflict, isn’t good enough to make up for it.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax isn’t a terrible movie. It’s just an extremely bland one, which is sometimes worse. Some talent went into its making, for sure, but that same talent was put to better use in 2010’s Despicable Me. There’s no reason why that film should be more inventive than this (because, after all, who’s more inventive than Dr. Seuss?), but it lacks in all fields and its message, despite being the entire point of the movie, is misplaced. There’s nothing inappropriate about The Lorax, so if your child wants to see it, there’s no reason not to go. Just be prepared to sit through what it is rather than what it could (and should) be.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax receives 1.5/5