|Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
“Dumb and Dumberer” is a somewhat amusing if simplistically executed prequel to “Dumb and Dumber,” the Farrelly Brothers comedy with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The Farrelly Brothers had next to nothing to do with this prequel (apart from having invented the characters of Harry and Lloyd), and their absence shows in the new film’s tameness and occasional lameness.
When the film begins, we meet Lloyd (Eric Christian Olsen), the high school janitor’s son, and Harry (Derek Richardson), who is about to go to public school for the first time after an entire life of home schooling. After they meet in a rather painful way, Lloyd offers to show Harry around and they become fast friends. Meanwhile, Principal Collins (Eugene Levy) and the head lunch lady (Cheri Oteri) begin a scheme to bilk the school out of $100,000 by making a fake “Special Needs” class and pocketing the available state funds for themselves. Lloyd and Harry are their obvious choices for the initial students and they in turn pick out a few others who happily agree to the class after finding out that it means they won’t have to do any schoolwork for the entire year. The always funny and rapidly rising Shia Labeauf plays one of these students, Lewis, with great panache. This leads us to the leading lady, smart and savvy school reporter Jessica (Rachel Collins), who is curious as to why some of the best students are in a “Special Needs” class taught by the former lunch lady. Jessica’s pursuit of the truth and the administration’s bid to get the $100,000 form the plot. Yes, shallow at best. This basic premise serves as a vehicle to allow Lloyd and Harry to show us just how dumb they really are. There are many mishaps with explosives, Slurpees, shopping carts, flagpoles and melted chocolate in burnt pants, not to mention the required sexual frustrations that Jessica visits upon Lloyd and Harry.
There are some funny bits here and there. Perhaps the best part is how well the two leads do, particularly Eric Christian Olsen, who initially seems to actually be a young Jim Carrey. However, there is too little else going on to keep up our interest between funny bits, and a lot of it fails to amuse because there really isn’t very much at stake. Part of what made “Dumb and Dumber” so funny was that they were both broke, travelling cross-country with a lot of money they didn’t know they had, while being pursued by both the F.B.I. and killers. In the original film, Harry and Lloyd were risking quite a lot, but here there is nothing at risk, besides the state being cheated out of $100,000, which doesn’t belong to the kids in the first place. This diminishes a lot of the possible comedic tension. Too bad that Principal Collins doesn’t try to set up Harry and Lloyd (and perhaps the other “special” students), which would force the characters to find a way out of it. Instead, they are merely along for the ride and somewhat unwittingly find themselves in different situations. This serves to make the movie flat, flat, flat, with the occasional laugh-out-loud event. Actually, if it weren’t for the dynamism of the two leads, I would have found it difficult to get through the movie.
Coming in at only 86 minutes, it seems clear why there are nine deleted scenes, worth more than 20 minutes of footage; obviously, a lot was cut out. There is even an alternate opening title sequence which, when viewed, reveals a lot of set-ups not in the final cut for punchlines that appear later in the final version. This makes the film somewhat frustrating to think back to, as so many jokes were missed out on because the original opening was cut. Just another case of a script that wasn’t fully thought out and probably another studio that put its foot down. The movie also has that dull, overly bright comedic sheen to it. There seems to have been little thought given to the look of the film, besides the costuming and hairstyles of 1986 (though I must admit that I kept forgetting about the time period, because it really never mattered).
This is one of the better DVDs I’ve seen in terms of arrangement and sheer volume of extra stuff; it’s also done very cleverly. For example, in the sound set-up mode, you can choose not only between Dolby Digital 5.1 and two-channel audio, but you can also choose to listen to it in Scottish dialect. When selected, the film begins with a cheesy Scottish dub over the voices. Similar options exist in the screen set-up, when you can choose between normal, extended version, super-fast mode, and pillow mode (I’ll save these for you to discover their meaning). Easter eggs, those hidden features within DVD menus, have become a big thing these days. There is a picture of an egg each screen of the DVD menu. Highlight the egg, click on it and you get some more fun stuff. There are a lot of these eggs spread throughout the menus, and I happen to think it at least slightly clever that they made the Easter eggs actually look like Easter eggs and therefore easy to spot. There’s even more fun with three different available audio commentaries. The real one features director Troy Miller and the two main stars. The commentary feels a little bit like a repeat of the various documentaries, though there are some really funny parts when they recall times of misadventure on the set.
It almost pains me to say this, but the bonus features on the DVD might be better than the movie itself. There is a very interesting documentary on the casting of Lloyd and Harry, as it was necessary to cast younger versions of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels with actors who wouldn’t simply mimic the characters from the first film. For anyone unfamiliar with how casting for a major studio picture works, or even those who are extremely familiar with it, this is an intriguing look into an area of filmmaking that most filmmakers will tell you is 90% of the end product.
On a technical sound note, sometimes I wonder why they even bother mixing movies like this in 5.1. The mix seems kind of odd as, perhaps in an effort to give the mixers something to do, there is dialogue that sometimes spills into the right and left channels when the dialogue is taking place in the center of the screen. This proves distracting at times, as this “exit sign” effect doesn’t work if there is nothing really happening off-screen. I watched it in stereo as well and it honestly sounds better that way. The dialogue in particular is more distinctly audible throughout. There are very few action sequences and very few times when a distinct ambience is needed, and hence nary a need for a detailed 5.1 mix. Therefore, even if you have a really good sound system, I would recommend going with the two-channel mix, as this is a dialogue-heavy movie and the two-channel mode delivers the clearest dialogue.
Director Miller delivers a by-the-numbers comedy that suffers from a lack of plot, dull moments and spotty execution that is saved to a certain extent by the two lead actors. Even Levy is underutilized, playing what amounts to a parody of himself. It would be an interesting approach to watch all of the special features before the movie itself, as knowing some of the behind-the-scenes info makes a lot of the movie funnier. I’m sad to say I’ll never know. In the end, the special features make this DVD more worth having than the movie itself.