Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd
Director : Troy Miller
Screenplay : Robert Brener and Troy Miller (story by Robert Brener)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Eric Christian Olsen (Lloyd Christmas), Derek Richardson (Harry Dunne), Rachel Nichols (Jessica), Cheri Oteri (Ms. Heller), Luis Guzmán (Ray), Elden Henson (Turk), William Lee Scott (Carl), Mimi Rogers (Mrs. Dunne), Eugene Levy (Principal Collins)
As far as my understanding of it goes, the purpose of a prequel is to deepen and enrich the meaning of the first film by showing what happened beforehand. Whereas a sequel takes the story further and tells us “what happens next,” the prequel gives more context and clarity by offering history as a way of better understanding characters and situations with which we are already familiar.
So, that said, don’t expect such lofty ideals from Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, the much belated prequel to the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber, which established them as the masters of moronic gross-out humor laced with genuine romantic pathos. Has it really been almost a decade since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels bumbled their way across the screen as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, two memorable airheads if ever there were any? Well, it has, and the passage of time makes Dumb and Dumberer seem all the more pointless, even if you don’t expect any deepening of character (which, by the way, you shouldn’t, since it was never the filmmakers’ intention nor, given the characters of Lloyd and Harry, is it even possible). The most we learn here that we didn’t know already is how Lloyd chipped his front tooth, and that happens in the first five minutes.
Dumb and Dumberer takes us back to 1986 when Harry (Derek Richardson) and Lloyd (Eric Christian Olsen) first met in high school. Harry is venturing out into public school for the first time after being home-schooled all his life by his well-meaning mom (Mimi Rogers). Lloyd, on the other hand, knows the ropes (or so he thinks) since his father (Luis Guzman) is the head custodian of the high school and he lives in the basement (this doesn’t stop him, of course, from running halfway across town in order to catch a bus to bring him right back to school). Lloyd is hardly the most popular kid in school, but he’s too blissfully stupid to realize that wedgies and being hung from the flagpole aren’t signs of friendship from the other kids.
Because there has to be a plot of some kind beyond just Harry and Lloyd spouting ignorant one-liners and acting foolishly, screenwriters Robert Brener and Troy Miller (who also directed)offer us Eugene Levy as Principal Collins, who is scheming to embezzle money from the school. He’s in cahoots with his lover, who happens to be the lunch lady (Cheri Oteri). Their scenes together are meant to be funny-gross (ooh, the principal and the lunch lady making out under the desk!), but they drag because the characters have no spiteful charisma the way true comic villains, like Dean Wormer from Animal House, should.
The scheme Collins concocts involves developing a phony “special needs” class so he can make off with $100,000 in grant money. Lloyd and Harry are, of course, model “special needs” students, and they recruit a motley bunch of others, most of whom are perfectly capable, but just want to take advantage of a class where they don’t have to do anything. The scheme is sniffed out by an intrepid school newspaper hottie in tight sweaters and short skirts (Rachel Nichols) with whom both Lloyd and Harry fall in love , thus essentially replicating the love triangle from Dumb and Dumber.
The original Dumb and Dumber worked largely because of its talented cast (Carrey and Daniels perfected the art of blissful idiocy) and the Farrelly Brothers’ willingness to—nay, insistence on—pushing whatever envelop they could, whether it be the delirious gross-out moment involving Turbo Lax or the running gag in which they sell a dead parakeet to a blind kid. In Dumb and Dumberer, one gets the sense that no envelops are being pushed, and all the gags are simply toned-down replays of stuff we’ve already seen (there is a pseudo-nasty bathroom scene, but it strains to derive humor from Bob Saget saying “shit” over and over again).
Richardson and Olsen do a fine job of mimicking the performances of Daniels and Carrey, respectively. Richardson takes on the same vacant-eyed geniality of Daniels and Olsen channels Carrey’s misguided deviousness with a sense of purpose that’s somewhat frightening. Yet, their stupidity and immaturity doesn’t have the same giggly kick simply because they’re kids. Part of the reason Dumb and Dumber was so funny was because it was about two adults who acted like preteens with ADHD; there was a silly sense of fun in the mismatch between body and mind. In Dumb and Dumberer, you can’t exactly say that Harry and Lloyd are “acting their age,” but the context of high school robs the movie of any potential for truly subversive humor.
Copyright © 2003 James Kendrick