Dumb and Dumber To

Posted on November 13, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Copyright 2014 Universal
Copyright 2014 Universal

A poorly timed cameo appearance by Honey Boo-Boo’s sexual predator-consorting Mama June is dumb.  Making a sequel 11 years after the original “Dumb and Dumber” and the best-forgotten prequel “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” is dumber.  Too. Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey do their best and clearly enjoy themselves, but 20 years after the original, it just isn’t as funny.  It feels like those late-era Three Stooges comedies, past the Shemp era, even past Joe Besser, with Curly Joe.  As Lloyd (Carrey) says, comedy is all about timing.  And this one is too late.

Factor this into your assessment of this review.  The movie relies heavily on the viewer’s familiarity with and affection for the original, which I do not share.  Also, I do not find jokes about stupidity funny, don’t care much for slapstick, and I am not a fan of potty humor.  If any of the following appeals to you, then by all means buy a ticket: naming a character after a crude sexual act, a snot bubble, feeding someone with fingers that have just been up someone’s butt, changing an adult diaper,  holding a bag of urine with one’s teeth, jokes about lobotomies and shock treatments, a cat ingesting meth and swinging from a chandelier, slicing off a portion of the male anatomy, giving a young girl having her first period a cork, an elderly lady in a nursing home tricking a man into sexual touching (when he removes his hand, there’s dust on it!), potentially inscestuous thoughts, and a character who confuses lepers and leprechauns.

Like the first one, this is a road movie.  Harry (Daniels) says he needs a new kidney, so he has to find a donor who is a match.  His parents inform him that he was adopted.  Someone else might have picked up on the fact that they are Asian, but of course that never occurred to our heroes.  But Harry finds out that he has a daughter who herself was adopted by a Nobel-winning scientist.  When Lloyd takes one look at her photo, she imprints on him like Renesmee on Jacob, setting us up for a little potential incest joke later on, only exceeded in its inanity by the discovery that our heroes are not exactly clear on what makes babies.

So Harry and Lloyd set out to find this girl and see if she will donate a kidney.  She is representing her father at an event where he is to receive an award, and he has given her a package with his latest discovery to turn over to charity for the good of humanity.  His wife Adele is planning to kill him and get the package back so she and her lover can sell the discovery and live happily ever after on the millions he tells her it is worth.

Carrey’s choices are always fascinating, even when the movie is at its grossest and most disgusting.  He has a ferocity and fearlessness and a sheer joy in committing to the character that rises above the lazy material.  Kathleen Turner, as the character with the filthy name, still has that magnificent husky voice and acerbic delivery.  It is too bad that one of the jokes is about how she is a “Titanic whore.”  Rob Riggle shows up not once, but twice,  as identical twins.  Even though he does not have much to do other than appear in some bizarre disguises and one really atrocious haircut, the movie picks up when he’s on screen.

I did appreciate a welcome (if gentle) parody of the TED Talks.  And I admit that I laughed three times, which were pretty much the only three jokes that were not about bodily functions or substituting faux outrageousness for humor.  It can be funny to be politically incorrect.  But political incorrectness is not itself funny.  There is a lot of great comedy in dumb characters.  But not when the script is as dumb as they are. To.

Parents should know that this movie has material that would receive an R rating if it were not a comedy.  The movie includes strong and crude language, drinking and drugs, extremely vulgar sexual references, extensive bodily function humor, brief nudity, and fantasy/comic violence including a murder plot, guns, poison, and ninjas.

Family discussion:  How does this movie compare to the original?

If you like this try: “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal,” from the same writers/directors

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Comedy Scene After the Credits

Kick-Ass 2

Posted on August 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

kick-ass-2-poster1The first Kick-Ass was entertaining as an over-the-top response to true-blue superhero movies.  The Dark Knight might think he’s angsty and tortured and tough, but he has nothing on the merry band of misfits who form a sort of Justice League on crack, featuring an 11-year-old known as Hit Girl who was raised to be the world’s greatest assassin.

It is less entertaining this time.  The lines have already been crossed, the 11-year-old is now 15, and all that’s left is to add a few new characters and a lot more violence.  There are some interesting ideas, but mostly it’s just a bloodbath.

The first movie ended with Dave (Aaron Tayl0r-Johnson), who has assumed the identity of a superhero (without any superpowers) named Kick-Ass, killing off the crime boss with a bazooka.  Now the crime boss’ son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), wants revenge.  He has unlimited resources and unlimited fury.  He dresses up in his late mother’s bondage gear, looking like a cross between Spinal Tap and Maleficent.  He gives himself an unprintable name, builds an evil lair with strippers and a shark, and hires an international assortment of mercenaries to set himself up as a super-villain.

Meanwhile, and this is the interesting part, it turns out that even knowing dozens of ways to kill a bad guy, with his own finger if necessary, Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) cannot escape a little bit of an adolescent identity crisis.  Though she confidently assures Dave that Kick-Ass is his real identity and it is being Dave that is the mask, when her cop guardian (an underused Morris Chestnut) makes her promise to be a normal highschool freshman, she decides to give it a try.  A section of the movie is like Buffy crossed with “Mean Girls” as she is taken in by her high school’s Plastics and there is a funny scene where she tries out for Dance Squad by imaging herself in a ninja fight.  But, as we all know only too well, the evil in high school is worse than any super-villain, and Mindy, like Dave, will learn what her real identity is.

Over and over, characters tell us that what they are going through is real life, not a comic book.  That gets as tiresome as the over-the-top carnage and efforts to shock.  Writer-director Jeff Wadlow, taking over for Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, fumbles the eternal challenge of a sequel, keeping it enough like the first to deliver what the audience expects while taking it in new directions to make it surprising.  His biggest mistake is in overlooking the obvious — this movie belongs to Hit Girl.  Every time she is off the screen, it’s like the projector bulb fades.

Parents should know that this is borderline NC-17, an exceptionally violent film with very graphic and disturbing images and sounds, massive destruction, and many injuries and deaths.  It also includes exceptionally raw and crude language (a running joke has Mindy filling more than one swear jar), sexual references, and explicit sexual situations and nudity.

Family discussion:  Was Dave responsible for what happened to his father?  What is the difference between Dave and his friends and vigilantes?

If you like this, try: the original film and the comics by Mark Miller and John Romita, Jr.

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Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Crime Fantasy Series/Sequel Stories about Teens Superhero

Jim Carrey Says His New Movie Is Too Violent

Posted on June 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

The 2010 film Kick-Ass, about a group of young would-be superheroes who did not actually have any super powers, was controversial for its ultra-violence and for featuring a young girl, played by then-12-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz, who used extremely strong and crude language and who was a trained killer.

Now it seems the sequel may be even more controversial as Jim Carrey, who stars, has said that he will not support the film.  In two tweets, he said that the film was made before the shooting at Sandy Hook and he now believes that the violence is excessive and inappropriate.  “My apologies to others involve with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”

The creator of Kick-Ass, Mark Millar, responded on his blog:

Like Jim, I’m horrified by real-life violence (even though I’m Scottish), but Kick-Ass 2 isn’t a documentary. No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it’s the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, Kick-Ass spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation. Ironically, Jim’s character in Kick-Ass 2 is a Born-Again Christian and the big deal we made of the fact that he refuses to fire a gun is something he told us attracted him to the role in the first place.

Ultimately, this is his decision, but I’ve never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real-life any more than Harry Potter casting a spell creates more Boy Wizards in real-life. Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can’t be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action-movie.


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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Posted on June 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm

It used to be that a comedian who wanted to be in movies had to make an armed services comedy.  Now, we stick them in domestic stories about daddies who need to learn that the family is more important than the office.  Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey have all been, there, some more than once.  Other performers take on movies through this rite of passage: look at Ice Cube’s “Are We There Yet?” and “Are We Done Yet?” or The Rock in “The Game Plan” or “The Tooth Fairy,” or Hulk Hogan in “Mr. Nanny” or Vin Diesel in “The Pacifier.”

Actually, don’t.

As rigidly structured as a limerick, these films also require: crotch hits, potty humor, grumpy bosses, and Daddy working through his own issues before finding that what really matters is family.  Sometimes, as happens here, they appropriate the title of a beloved book and then jettison just about everything else about it.  I’m still hoping for an authentic version of the real-life story “Cheaper by the Dozen,” updating the classic movie version with Clifton Webb. The charming book by Richard and Florence Atwater merits more than a homeopathic speck of a relationship to a movie someday as well.

The book, written in 1938, is the story of a decorator who dreams of adventure and is sent a penguin by an antarctic explorer.  In the movie, Jim Carrey plays the son of an explorer who was never home when he was growing up.  Now in his 40’s, he is the divorced father of two who works so hard for a company that buys beautiful old buildings and tears them down to build new ones that he misses a lot of soccer games and dance recitals.  He very much wants to be a name partner in the firm. If he can make one more big acquisition for the company, it’s his.  The only privately-held space in Central Park is the elegant old restaurant, Tavern on the Green. In real life, it is now closed, but in the movie it is owned by redoutable dowager Mrs. Van Grundy (Angela Lansbury).

And then, a crate is delivered. Mr. Popper’s father has died and he has inherited a penguin, soon followed by five more. Popper tries desperately to get rid of the penguin until his son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) sees them and thinks they are his birthday present. So Popper keeps them as a way to connect to his kids, even though his building does not allow pets and a zealous zookeeper wants to take them away. Various forms of chaos disrupt Popper’s life, interfering with his efforts to persuade Mrs. Van Grundy to sell and the no-pets rule in his apartment building but enhancing his communications with his children and ex-wife. As he scrambles to create an optimal environment for the penguins, his home starts to look more and more like the South Pole. And when three of the penguins lay eggs, it brings out his protective father instincts.

Carrey gets to make faces and do some improvising, which is undeniably fun, and there are some clever lines.  Popper’s son describes his upset middle-school sister as “95 pounds of C4 explosives on a hair trigger.  You’re in the hurt locker now.”  Carrey has some fun with the sillier situations and the lovely Madeline Carroll (Popper’s daughter) is a welcome presence.   The book that inspired it is warmly remembered more than 70 years later.  The movie may not be remembered by the time you get home.


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Based on a book Comedy Family Issues Fantasy

Disney’s A Christmas Carol

Posted on November 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Writer-director Robert Zemeckis wisely chose the most unquenchable of stories for his technological marvel. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, already filmed with everyone from Michael Caine to Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Vanessa Williams, and Mr. Magoo in the role of the skinflint who learns to give, can hold its own even surrounded by the most dazzling of special effects.

I actually gasped at one moment as the camera flew over London. It was not just that the Victorian setting was so meticulously created, though I plan to go back just to revel in the details. It was that I had never before seen a camera move so fluidly through so many different vantage points in the midst of a convincingly immersive 3D experience. It evokes a visceral sense of buoyant jubilation and freedom that immediately connects us to the movie’s setting, making us feel completely present in the story as it unfolds.

We meet Ebeneezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey) as he is bidding farewell to his partner, Jacob Marley, now laid out in his coffin. Scrooge literally removes the coins from Marley’s eyes. It may be a custom, but money is money. Seven years later, Scrooge is well into his bah, humbug mode, turning down a Christmas dinner offer from his nephew Fred (voice of Colin Firth), turning down a charitable donation, and grudgingly agreeing to allow his poor clerk Bob Cratchit (voice of Gary Oldman) a day off to celebrate with his family. Scrooge goes home to eat his gruel by himself when, in one of the film’s most thrilling effects, Marley’s flickering greenish ghost appears, heaving the heavy weights he bears through the door ahead of him. As we all well know, he is there to announced that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who will teach him about Christmas past, present, and yet to come.

Our familiarity with the story is an anchor in the sea of new visual stimuli, and it keeps our focus on what is happening to the characters, even when the technology goes slightly askew. Zemeckis said that the good news about making a motion capture film is that you can do anything. Whatever you imagine can be realized. But, he added, the bad news is that you have to do everything. The blank screen is there and every single detail, every button on every coat, every log in every fire, every reflection, shadow, and snowflake have to be separately created in three dimensions and designed to interact with every other element we see. Some of the figures are more solidly created while others seem a bit stiff and rubbery. Firth’s Fred is particularly awkward. Some of the scenes are hyper-realistic while others, like a dance at the Fezziwig’s Christmas party, play with space and weight, not always in aid of the story. It gets too frantic, especially during a non-Dickensian insert of a chase scene that has Scrooge shrinking like Alice in Wonderland. The decision to double up on voices (Carrey plays all three spirits, Oldman plays Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and Marley and Robin Wright Penn plays both Scrooge’s sister and his girlfriend) is distracting and occasionally confusing.

But oh, there is a visual sumptuousness here to rival even the merriest Christmas celebration. Scrooge’s flights through time, the glorious bounty of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Victorian streets, the costumes, the warmth of the fire, the magic of Scrooge’s first dance with Belle — make this an instantly indispensable classic. It’s all there, Scrooge’s bitter loneliness to his thrilling giddy-as-a-schoolboy realization that he can change, and that the power of giving is greater than any power of having. And for the people who gave us this great gift, God bless them everyone.

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3D Animation Based on a book Drama Fantasy For the Whole Family Holidays Remake
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