"Dumb & Dumber"

Peter and Bobby Farrelly take low humor to a higher ground with the sheer exuberance of their no-brainer gags.

Published August 3, 2000 7:51PM (EDT)

"Dumb & Dumber"
Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
Starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels and Lauren Holly
New Line; widescreen and full-frame
Extras: American and international trailer, photo galleries, cast biographies

Released at Christmas 1994, "Dumb & Dumber" delighted audiences and caused most critics to react as if someone had just farted in a drawing room. Somebody had: the Farrelly Brothers. But one man's gas is another man's perfume. Low comedy can be done well or badly; not every poop joke is a winner. What distinguished the Farrellys was the sheer exuberance in their barrage of scatology and no-brainer gags. The sweetness of their approach became more evident in their third movie, "There's Something About Mary," but "Dumb & Dumber" remains their most satisfying picture. The Farrellys and the stars, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, are like evil toddlers smearing their food on the walls, themselves and each other. If you're not willing to accept their invitation to revel in the joy of being a dirty kid once again, the movie probably isn't for you. If you are, it's idiot paradise.

The plot -- Carrey and Daniels are two unemployed imbeciles journeying to Aspen to return a briefcase to Lauren Holly (whose pop-eyed disbelief makes her a great straight woman), the rich girl Carrey has fallen for -- is no more than a clothesline on which to hang jokes. And since the Farrellys have never really learned how to tell a story, the plot's utilitarian irrelevance doesn't allow for the slack stretches. As Lloyd Christmas, the "brains" of the duo, Carrey, done up in a pudding-bowl haircut and minus the cap that hides his real chipped tooth, is predictably brilliant. But in the wake of Carrey's brilliance, Jeff Daniels' Harry, sporting a scarecrow thatch, has been largely overlooked. In fact the performance is a small marvel of comic obliviousness. Harry is as sweet-tempered as Lloyd is devious. Everything penetrates his concrete cranium about five seconds later than it should, and Daniels' perfectly sincere delayed reactions are priceless. It's a weird kind of anti-timing, as perfect in its way as the quickest-witted comic zingers.

Daniels has the movie's most outrageous moment, suffering the effects of the industrial-strength laxative Lloyd has spiked his drink with -- perched upon a broken toilet, yet. The first time I saw this scene I laughed so hard I cried. It's also the epitome of the toilet humor that turns a lot of people off. But how can almost exactly the same scene appear a few years later in "Trainspotting" (a movie I also loved) and not cause that movie to be treated like something too low to consider? Maybe the only answer is that what's perceived as "art" has privileges that are denied mere "entertainment." One way to remedy that discrepancy? Purchase this DVD of "Dumb & Dumber." The extras are scant, but imagine the pride of displaying it in your collection nestled between "L'avventura" on one end and "The Dreamlife of Angels" on the other. There it can reside for all to see, a rosy little fart in your very own DVD drawing room.

To the next review in the DVD Room

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By Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger.

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