How Americans slowburned their country to a dimwitted cinder.
written by Audy Elliott
The prevailing question over the past weekend was “How the hell was this movie number one?”. It doesn’t look like it should be number one, it doesn’t smell like it should be number one, and it has enough premise dust on it to stay into oblivion, and rot in an idiot clichéd punch- lined retirement home. Dumb & Dumber To went up against, better, tactfully more entertaining quality of films for the weekend, mercilessly prat-falling past its competition to an unjustifiable win. So again, how the hell did this movie come in number one this past weekend? Movie analysts strip down all the logistics to one vital element: Nostalgia. And my response to that is - FUCK NOSTALGIA! American moviegoing audiences have been personally killing me with their slack-jawed movie choices for quite some time, but even this is an all new low. It’s as a piss dumb flu of a movie came, leaving me afflicted with a bad case of shitty cinema-itis, and the only robitussin-like cure would be to kill myself by a western movie, high noon styled hanging where I made sure there was no slack in my rope. I’m not that desperate yet, but it’s getting there.
For those of you that don’t know or haven’t seen the pitiful commercials or movie trailers, Dumber and Dumber To, is a sequel of the 1994 original Dumb & Dumber with a Jim Carrey (at the height) of his powers, and Jeff Daniels, who is one step above “THAT-GUY” movie status, being saved from it by his pure acting talent alone to ever slip into that territory, both zip-line through the movie, bobbing and weaving dummy pixie dust on an overrated comedy movie, with no real weight. Under the Farrelly brother’s lead, Dumb & Dumber disgracefully ushered in the sophomoric, goofball, earnest potty humor with heart, which Judd Apatow would later refine and repackage.The Farrellys at that point in time where unknowns and for their first venture they hit it big with this movie to where it allowed them to release Something about Mary, Me, myself and Irene and the wildly underrated Kingpin starring a reawakened Bill Murray. It’s not that Dumb & Dumber was offensively stupid. It’s right in the pantheon of 90’s comedy legacy with Ace Ventura, Austin Powers and Clerks. And that is where the idea should have stayed. In the ’94 original (which I couldn’t stand) focuses on two dimwitted grown man babies, one rocking a perfectly shaped bowl cut with a chipped tooth to match (lloyd - Carrey), and the other (Harry - Daniels) looking like the long lost older brother to Randy Quaid’s amish phenom bowler, Ishmael in the Farrellys' other doofus themed Kingpin. Both walking punching bags, meander through the original movie as best friends from Providence, Rhode Island who set out on a cross country trip to Colorado, for “who the hell knows why” coupled with “who the hell even really cares” – but they are tasked with returning a brief case full of money to its owner, only to be pursued manically by the movie’s criminals who ultimately after the same briefcase. The movie from what I can remember has some funny jokes, with Carrey and Daniels going with a demonstration of full screwball, idiot-savantism, manic wrathfulness with its humor, and set ups of one another. But like our boy Robert Downey Jr. said in Tropic Thunder: “You don’t go full retard.” Oh Robert, they did, and they did so expertly to a standing ovation by its own carefully cultivated legion of apologists, while a whoopee cushion of pathetic expectations gets placed onto their seats as they sit back down – And apparently that is how American audiences want it. Not me, save that shit for the next mindless dummy, I won’t entitle this fallacy of nostalgia with my hard earned money.
Either way, even at my younger age, I wasn’t as offended by the lack of cleverness to falsify in playing dumb, as the convincingly portrayal of both its leads to where dumb won over in a woefully overrated proximity to its own misplaced smugness in comparison to other, much better, Farrelly brothers movies. The key fundamental difference is not that audiences are attracted to this sub-subservient, basic bitch level humor to begin with, it’s that audiences turned out twenty years later with ‘Steve Perry’ like open arms!! In 1994 it’s a petty crime, with its timing, in 2014 it’s a horrendous federal felony of epic proportions that has crossed three state lines, and now has The Fugitive’s Tommy Lee Jones’ marshal on the chase. This time the movie smacks you in the face like a broken down, drooping, unhinged cast iron frying pan, except with said pan, you actually can produce something useful and feel plentiful, disposable, in which the same satisfaction cannot be said for this haggard title.
So back to my fundamental, quizzical dilemma with this film: how the hell did this movie come in number one?
Reason 1: Jim Carrey is still a bankable star.
Yes, Carrey is still a bankable star. No, we really can’t remember that last true “stick to your ribs hit” movie he powered on his movie star wattage alone. But he is still Jim ‘frickin’ Carrey. He made a recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, allowing for promotional and marketing synergy of the movie, with Daniels, himself showing up, in a shameless plug built around a boulevard of broken has been dreams kind of way. Makes sense from a business standpoint as it helped the movie win at the box office. Carrey has nothing to prove, and looks a little over the hill, with his overall ‘brand’ but anytime he steps out and presents himself, people still lunged forward based on what he has so brilliantly established in the past. He may not be relevant, but his filmography always is, and his talent/bankability stays youthful as the lines on his face, and the gray in his dyed hair age with unknowing acceleration. Regardless of what his last hit is in, Carrey is one of the few comedians that can shoulder his own movie. Nevermind what films he farted through the past couple of years (Kick-Ass 2, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Mr. Poppers Penguins) Carrey, when he is on, and in something semi-valid and trustworthy – can and will deliver the goods. If you are aware, we are living in a time where our action heroes are nearing the retirement age. Denzel Washington recently old man movie starred his ass-off to get Equalizer number one its opening weekend and the Taken franchise has added an additional 10 hard edge years onto Liam Neeson’s shelf life, with arguably his most famous role since Oskar Schindler. It all applies to Jim Carrey and this movie. If these two are bankable (Denzel equal on Carrey’s movie star Kraken career) its comes to no surprise that, it was this rationale that was pitched to Carrey in the early stages prior to him accepting the role, which begrudgingly, I hatefully admit they were right about.
Reason 2: Strong Cult Brand drew people back.
Even though I didn’t care for the original Dumb & Dumber, the movie did gross $247.3 million total on a budget of $17.0 million. It had mixed reviews when it first came out, but it resonated with people to where it eventually became cult classic. It had a strong entitlement in ’94 with likeable, proven leads, experienced directors, and an actual plot that for better or for worse was easy to follow and competent. The 30 million dollars that were secured this past weekend, weren’t from that many neophytes as it was from their over-agreeable fathers and uncles. The same dipshit, beer-swiling, frat boys and working collar, burn out high school night students that enjoy this movie 20 years ago came back out in full force this past weekend, just now they are peoples fathers and uncles with 401K’s and play fantasy football in seven different leagues and not successful in anyone of them. I get it dumb is funny, dumb goes straight to your bones, dumb makes you feel good, as long as its someone else’s dumbness that you can laugh at – this is why Jackass made a bunch California stoner loser guys, led by a man whose last name is Knoxville into millionaires, and when the next Jackass movie comes out, I will not be as shocked by that because the last one came out less than six years ago, and timing is everything. Or no it’s not, as exampled by Dumb & Dumber To. Nothing is stronger than a good cult – good, bad or ugly, once there are fans; they will always come out in pavlovian call and response to support their beloved. Apparently, Dumb & Dumber To had this compartment of stupidity that was there for its 38 million dollar reawakening.
Reason 3: Absence based fondness.
Again, nostalgia built up the piles of money for this film. This movie takes people back to a better time to when it was okay to laugh. Cinema was different back then, hardly any franchises, or 3D IMAX or prequels. The Matrix and The Phantom Menace was still at 3-4 years away from this movie, and the first iteration of Batman had yet to be an overall shit-stain on the pop culture lexicon’s tidy whiteys of what was passable and what wasn’t. Some films needed to stay away and this was one of them. Audiences disagreed. The smart thing about dumb comedy is it’s apparently accessibility to people. Humor is subjective, and with this movie – that subjectivity was in the minds and hearts of those who wanted to experience it. This movie had no reason beating Interstellar, and Big Hero 6, but audiences didn’t care. They want guarantees, they want escapism, and this movie gave that to them, eventhough it was delivered in the most flagrant, egregious substandard way possible. I get Dumb & Dumber To – but I’m still waiting for Old School 2 to happen. Where is the justice in that? There isn’t any. I can’t argue as to the intended purpose of a movie on its most fundamental level: it’s to have audiences lose themselves in a story, in the experience, and carries them away from their problems and real world doggedness that plagues as all, but damn, does it have to be this movie? With absence it makes the heart grow fonder – I get why this movie works on a primal structure – people, need familiarity, especially in a time of global economic and financial uncertainty. It’s because of this self prescribed tenet of being a careful, watchful, sensitive movie critic as to why I understand why people would want to see this movie, but not on the idyllically charming level to where it wins the box office out right. If absence made this movie second or third for the weekend, then I would take the hand gun away from my head because that trigger is getting more and more squeezable the more and more I hear of the market’s good movie let downs by the very poor judge of choices of the customers it caters towards.
Reason 4: Hollywood updating, rebooting, and “sequelizing” the shit out of everything.
This movie falls right into the buckets studio executives run down when deciding if on paper the movie makes fiscal sense or not. Lets see here: proven, albeit simple-minded semi-attractive premise? Check! Brand names? (Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) Check! Bankability off Carrey’s previous body of work? Check! Sequel that people can grab and hold dear like clutching a one eyed teddy bear busting at the comical seams – CHECK, CHECK AND FUCKING CHECK!! In a world where we have four Transformers movies, three Expendables movies, and 18 Die Hards with a stale vengeance - are we really that surprised this movie did as well as it did? Probably not, but doesn’t mean we still are not aggravatingly disappointed. This movie beat out some good movies. Those movies though didn’t come from a previous franchise, and not from a bankability stand point per se (Nolan is bankable, but if this was the fourth Dark Knight movie this whole article would be moot, and that would have been a good thing) To reiterate, general movie audiences want guaranteed, want assurance, want collateral for their time, money and attention - Dumb & Dumber To gave that to them with the least amount of resistance, but also gave me, and other astute cinephiles a brain aneurism in the process. Now my fear is anchored by the possibility of another sequel hackneyed delivered - ‘Dumb & Dumber 3: Assholes take New York’ (title still pending) where my anger will only manifest and intensify with magnetic hate if the DVD’s sell, if this movie does big overseas, and if the studio feels all they need is the promise of a number one weekend to further submit additional entries to where we have a steaming pile of dog-feces of an anthology for Dumb & Dumber materials. This is why god invented Tequila.
Overall I’m ashamed that this country not only proved me wrong, but in a lot of ways proved me right in its arrogance to validate rancid movies in the box office by going to see them faithfully. I understand that we all have guilty pleasures in all forms of mediums, but not this medium, and not this awful toxic waste dump that is called at its best “detestable.” This movie is nothing short of all other pop culture failures in history like the ‘disco music’ - to Puff Daddy’s baggy shiny trash bag suits – to Fred Durst and his backwards baseball hats to currently anything with Kim Kardashian’s butt crack as its ironically trying to “break the internet” to Lifetime’s own recent abomination of the Aaliyiah biopic. Maybe, I shouldn’t be as naïve as I’m coming across – this is, after all, the culture where we still have reality television shows of not famous athlete’s but their fucking wives, because someone thought they are much MORE interesting than their spouses that actually earn a wage to support their staged and phony materialistic affluence. The fact of the matter is: movies hold a precedent - they are profound, larger than life, and carry a reach that its voice echoes and reverberates throughout pop culture that sets the table for everything else that depends on it. I have grown to expect dumb shit when it comes to movie choices, but this time Dumb & Dumber To wasn’t the movie, it just wasn’t. But now it is and we have to live will the perception that we are dumb ass culture as a whole, pretending in making smart choices, allowing us to get away with those choices, when it comes to truly “glad-handing” a movie that had no business being “glad-handed.” As I stated before – FUCK NOSTALGIA, because nostalgia doesn’t innovate cinema. Yes it influences, but doesn’t affirm the art form overall to new heights and trajectories. Because of this movie, the bigger picture is we take one step forward with the brilliant Edge of Tomorrow (that nobody saw,) but three steps back with this not intentioned laughable excuse of a movie. However, the joke is ultimately on me for giving this country another chance to redeem itself at that theaters, and like Jim Carrey and his tired ass agreement to star in this film, he, the movie, and the ideology of what this represents, doesn’t gnaw at me but you America, you do, and you let me down big time, and you did it for a movie that doesn’t deserve your attention. Congrats, dummies. I hope it wasn’t worth the asinine wait.