‘Dumb and Dumber To’: Desperation dogs the laughs

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Maybe the problem with “Dumb and Dumber To” is we now live in a “Jackass” and YouTube world, where real-world clowns willingly engage in stunts far more idiotic than the relatively mild self-inflicted predicaments these two live-action cartoon characters find themselves in.

Maybe the problem is Jim Carrey is now 52 and Jeff Daniels is 59, and the bad haircuts and the malapropisms and the physical slapstick — they seem a little more forced and a little sadder. Daniels, such a fine actor, seems particularly out of place here, as if he’s doing an over-broad character on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch as opposed to someone we want to hang with for 110 minutes.

Maybe it’s just not that funny when Carrey eats two hot dogs in gross-out fashion, or the fart jokes just keep on coming, or Kathleen Turner’s physical appearance is the centerpiece for jokes that come across as more mean than funny.

It’s not that I was offended by the humor in “Dumb and Dumber To.” With a PG-13 rating and two lead characters who are essentially good-hearted and likable, this is actually a fairly tame effort from the Farrelly Brothers.

Sight gags about dead birds and a blind neighbor and a meth-crazed cat? Please. It’s 2014. You see more cutting-edge stuff on basic cable these days.

With a movie like “Dumber and Dumber To” — and for that matter, with a movie like the original — it’s all about whether or not there are enough stupid laughs to warrant a stupid recommendation. I cracked up a good half-dozen times at a particularly sharp one-liner from the screenplay-by-committee (Bobby and Peter Farrelly share writing credits with four others) or an inspired moment from Carrey or Daniels, but there were long stretches when the movie was just spinning its wheels.

Where have Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) been for the last 20 years? There’s a fairly clever explanation, but that quickly devolves into a cringe-inducing and laugh-free bit about Harry and two groundskeepers (don’t ask) trying to yank out Lloyd’s catheter. (Again, please don’t ask.)

Turns out Harry needs a kidney donation. His Asian parents break the news to him he’s adopted — and that’s a variation on a joke Gabe Kaplan told 40 years ago — but conveniently enough, Harry learns he fathered a daughter two decades ago. A “genital donor match,” as Lloyd puts it. Har.

They must find the daughter! Harry needs a kidney, and Lloyd — well, Lloyd falls in love with the girl based on one snapshot.

Off we go on a road trip with Harry and Lloyd, a road trip that takes longer than it should, thanks to one of the better extended gags in the film.

Carrey and Daniels throw themselves into the characters they inhabited 20 years ago, whether it means allowing their crotches to be doused, using their rear ends as comedic weapons, or just saying really stupid things. Sometimes it’s pretty damn funny. Almost always, it feels just a little bit desperate.

Of course actors can be funny in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. In the right role, the right movie. It’s just that THESE characters don’t play as well two decades down the road. It’s a little like watching one of those old-timer games where former superstars gingerly move about the basketball court or the baseball field with the shortened fences.

Rachel Melvin is a gamer as the airhead beauty who could be Harry’s daughter — but many of the gags about her stupidity just sexualize her. She gives a long, intimate hug to a stranger in public simply because he requests the hug; she talks about the men on the Internet who have tricked her into taking off her clothes; she’s in her underwear in front of the room service guy because — well. It doesn’t matter.

Rob Riggle scores some laughs in a dual role as a villain and the villain’s brother. The rest of the supporting cast, including Laurie Holden from “The Walking Dead” as a conniving golddigger, aren’t given all that much with which to work.

Sequels that take place way down the road, instead of “One Year Later,” have always intrigued me.

Unfortunately, “Dumb and Dumber To” makes the case these guys were better off living in our memories instead of back on the big screen.

[s3r star=2/4]

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly and written by the Farrellys, Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin and Mike Cerrone. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references). Opens Friday at local theaters.

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