When reviewing film, my definition of a C+ is “mediocre, maybe even bad, but entertaining nonetheless.” That essentially sums up the Farrelly Brothers’ decade-too-late sequel “Dumb and Dumber To.” The movie is simultaneously many things you hoped for and many things you feared about the long-anticipated follow-up. On the one hand I laughed. A lot. On the other hand, between those belly laughs were jokes that fell flat, jokes that made me cringe (for some reason Harry and Lloyd are suddenly racist and sexist), and jokes that made me shake my head at the sheer desperation on display. It’s not just the writing that’s lazy, devoid of any truly memorable lines or set-pieces, but both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels seem to be phoning in an over-the-top caricature of the characters they played in 1994. No one watches a “Dumb and Dumber” movie looking for subtlety, but despite their idiocies, 1994 Harry and Lloyd feel like real people. 2014 Harry and Lloyd are walking cartoons, closer in spirit to the short-lived mid-90’s animated series than the original movie. Regardless, if it makes you laugh, it makes you laugh. “Dumb and Dumber To” made me laugh, but the memories are fading as I type.
The original “Kick Ass” was a demented slice of the superhero life in a hyper-realistic setting, punctuated by a suitably quirky Nic Cage performance, an outstanding cult anti-hero in Hit Girl, and the comedic antics of a high-school nerd ineffectually (then effectually) trying to be a superhero. “Kick Ass 2” has the suitably quirky performance down, this time from Jim Carrey as Brooklyn-accented Colonel Stars and Stripes, but loses almost everything else. The profanity-laced Hit Girl is still a bad-ass, but not nearly as amusing at fifteen as she was at eleven, and this time Aaron Johnson’s a little too square-jawed and a little too ripped to sell his role as the lovable nerd. The set-up is interesting: Kick Ass has spawned the emergence of a cadre of regular people who want to try their hand at the superhero thing. In turn, the vengeful McLovin, I mean, Chris D’Amico is intent on becoming the first supervillain and recruiting a cadre of misfits to his own cause. All of this is amiable, but unlike the original, the tone leads toward cornball drama (Hit Girl has to decide between being who she is and keeping a promise to her foster dad) over satire, and the movie is worse for it. Nevertheless, Carrey gives one of his more intriguing performances in years, and the overall milieu prompts a chuckle more often than not.