CHARMLESS Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey have gone from inspiration to desperation in 20 years, writes Siobhan Synnot
Dumb and Dumber To (15)
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Running time: 109 minutes
Revisiting Dumb And Dumber may have sounded like a stupid idea, but Dumb And Dumber To removes all doubt. Twenty years ago, the Farrelly brothers Bobby and Peter scored a hit with their comedy about two dim friends who commit acts of gross-out stupidity. Back then, getting rising star Jim Carrey and Woody Allen favourite Jeff Daniels to ride around in the Mutts Cutts truck, a dog-grooming vehicle kitted out with ears, a tongue and a tail, was an act of inspiration. This month, listening to Carrey trying to wring laughs out of “the second most annoying noise in the world” feels more like an act of desperation.
Just minutes into the film, Harry Dunne (Daniels) tests your gag reflex by holding a bag of urine in his mouth. His best friend Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) has been catatonic for two decades, and Harry has been visiting him regularly at the care home, to change his adult nappies. However, it turns out Lloyd has been conducting an extended gotcha. Despite being pranked, Harry is impressed – “The shock treatments, the partial lobotomy? That takes commitment” – then helps free his friend from a wheelchair by hauling out his catheter with the help of two gardeners. This is not even the third most painful moment in the film.
The film insists that little has changed for Lloyd and Harry, even though Harry discovers he has a grown-up daughter (Rachel Melvin), the result of a brief liaison with fabled beauty Fraida Felcher, who now looks like Kathleen Turner and takes endless pelters in the movie for having grown older and wider. Turner is very game, and I do hope she was handsomely remunerated for this job, but it’s interesting that the movie barely acknowledges that 20 years might have changed Harry and Lloyd. In 1994, they were a pair of cartoonishly immature man-children. In 2014, they are two men in their mid-to-late fifties yelling “show us your tits” at a young woman. Behaviour that might be clueless in 1994 is plain sleazy by 2014.
Comedy also ages terribly; Dumb And Dumber pushed boundaries in its day but years of Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and The Hangover guys behaving badly makes Dumb And Dumber To about as transgressive as Horrible Bosses 2.
In fact, Horrible Bosses writers Sean Anders and John Morris have a screen credit here, along with both Farrelly brothers, Bennett Yellin and Mike Cerrone. All told, this six-man team made me laugh four times, which is a rubbish productivity ratio, especially when one of those laughs was a sight gag involving the still limber Carrey trying to eat a hot dog without using his hands. Nor does it feel as if anyone was in charge of finessing the convoluted plot, which makes pretzel twists to accommodate gags about poo, pee and Aids.
Without overinflating the original film, it possesses a certain squirmy charm, especially with Carrey at the peak of his physical comic powers and Daniels gleefully cutting loose to keep him company. On the other hand, the strained, farcical antics of Dumb And Dumber To are as bracingly joyous as a torn testicle – which also gets a scene in this movie.
General release from Friday
In 1947, after failing to convince book publishers that South Americans could have sailed from Peru to Polynesia in ancient times, Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen, right) decides to prove his theory by making the 5,000 mile journey in a primitive balsawood raft, named after the Incan god Kon-Tiki.
Heyerdahl and his crew have a sextant but no Plan B, should they run into trouble – which of course they do. A parrot bites through their radio antenna, Heyerdahl can’t swim and their raft becomes unseaworthy. There’s also discord in the crew caused by Herman (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), a fridge salesman who thought he longed for adventure but now realises, too late, that he doesn’t.
Two versions of Kon-Tiki were shot simultaneously in Norwegian and English. Perhaps the longer Norwegian version is more nuanced, but its international market sibling feels like a reheat of triumphant tales we’ve heard before, glossing over the real Heyerdahl’s complexity, arrogance and ability to doggie paddle, while stuffing generic pep-talks into the mouths of its sinewy Norse gods. The cinematography has a stirring beauty, and fish experts can fill their boots, but it’s a pity that directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg chose to float such a crudely lashed-together boys’ own adventure.
Glasgow Film Theatre, Friday until 24 December; Edinburgh Filmhouse, 26-30 December
A two-hour film with Nepalese as its first language, no introduction, no narration and no dramatic arc sounds like a challenge, in much the same way that unshelled lobster is delicious: both require a little patience.
Manakamana is the latest project from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, whose output includes Sweetgrass (2009), which tracked American sheep herders, and Leviathan (2012), which followed a fishing trawler. This time directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez locked a camera to the floor of a cable car to record pilgrims travelling up and down to the Hindu Manakamana Temple in Chitwan, Nepal.
The film is shot in unbroken takes, each lasting about ten minutes. First on board for the 1.7-mile ride are an old man and his grandson, who travel in silence. It’s 20 minutes before anyone speaks.
Lack of information forces you to speculate about what is on screen (are the tourist and a local sitting quietly because they are discomfited?) and sometimes re-evaluate (it’s an American girl and her friend, both a little bored by sightseeing). A couple of musicians banter and duet on some twanged instruments, and there’s light relief when two women try to get to grips with the novelty of eating ice-cream on a stick. Sometimes it’s a provocative exercise, sometimes it’s an arty chore, and occasionally you can guess what’s next for the occupants – for instance, the four bleating goats being taken to the temple probably shouldn’t bother starting any long books.
Unlike the travellers, Manakamana’s audience never arrive at the sacred destination because, obviously, it’s the philosophical journey we’re supposed to be savouring. A shorter trip would have been more welcome but if you’re seeking a Zen escape from the scramble towards Christmas, you may enjoy Manakamana more than the goats.
Glasgow Film Theatre, 20 and 23 December
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS