This is the eighth in the Anti-Monitor series, where it’s believed that some films are best reviewed with the utmost incredulity. This week, Matt Fleming and myself banter back and forth over Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ return to the Farrelly Brothers… you know what? To tell the truth, we didn’t really talk much about Dumb And Dumber To this week, even though we sincerely meant to (the consensus can be found below). Instead, we had a chat about the cynicism derived from comedy sequels, their place in contemporary Hollywood, and the number of people in the world who feel nostalgic enough to keep these movies in circulation. This is where I’d warn you about spoilers, but… come on.
DR: So, Birdy. *sighs* Have you ever walked out of a movie before?
Matt: Once. FEARdotCOM. And I worked at the theater.
DR: I think the only time I ever walked about of a theater was when I saw Ted.
Matt: Since we started this column, I have gotten the itch once or twice, but I stayed put. Not even bathroom breaks.
DR: It takes a lot to get me to even consider leaving a theater. And, truth be told, I’ve seen much worse movies than Ted in my life. I’ve sat through Batman and Robin, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation… Interstellar. (I kid. – DR.) I’ve made it through them all. I’m not sure why Ted broke me, though. I guess I’ve been getting grouchier as I’m getting older.
Matt: When I got around to watching Ted, I took notes on the number of times I laughed. It was twice, and I think Mark Wahlberg is hilarious.
DR: I think my tolerance for what passes for comedy these days has dropped considerably. Like, I know we’re about to see Horrible Bosses 2 in a couple of weeks, and I’m just fucking dreading it.
Matt: My tolerance for today’s comedy is definitely higher than yours. I like a lot of the dumb, goofy stuff, especially the absurd. You may disagree, but a lot of contemporary comedies get by on charm and word play. There is at least a modicum of effort present, even in dumb movies like Horrible Bosses, or the surprising 21 Jump Street.
DR: That’s definitely true. I’ll admit, I don’t often watch comedies – or at least, I don’t often watch contemporary comedies. Like there’s that woman, what’s her name… Melissa McCarthy? She went and blew up, had a career, and lost it all in the span of how long I haven’t given a shit about Hollywood comedies.
Matt: Honestly, here’s a problem I have: I don’t really think successful comedies need sequels. I loved Anchorman, and a year after the sequel was released, I still haven’t seen it. Can you name a good comedy sequel?
DR: There’s a question. No, no I can’t. I mean, let’s do the list: Ghostbusters 2, The Hangover II AND III… Caddyshack II. There’s a lot of them, and they all have one thing in common – none of them are anywhere close to being as funny as the movies that came before. Can YOU name a good comedy sequel?
Matt: The closest I can get is Back to the Future II, but that’s really more of a funny adventure movie, and it’s less that it is good and more that I love it. Comedic sequels aren’t necessary.
DR: As a matter of fact, I’d argue that they are inherently unnecessary. There’s always that cynical mental prick that comes with watching a trailer to a comedy sequel, isn’t there? Kind of a, “oh, I know why this got made.” Your body may be chuckling, but your brain knows better.
Matt: Oh, I have one good sequel, I think: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
DR: Do those count? Yeah, I guess those do count.
Matt: I’ll laugh at the jokes, if they are there, but I’ll know that what I’m really laughing at is the first movie. That’s hard to sustain twenty years later.
DR: How much is nostalgia worth? Ghostbusters 2 was pushing it when it came out almost six years after the first film. Shouldn’t there be a limit to how much time can pass before a film is no longer qualified for a sequel? How long is too long?
Matt: Nostalgia is just fuel for lazy creatives. “Didn’t you love it when so-and-so did such-and-such? What about if he does it… AGAIN!” That’s why the originals are great, because you can watch them if you feel that pang. You are attempting to recreate specific feelings, and it’s next to impossible to do that the further you are removed from the source.
DR: Comedy sequels are good for a studio looking to for some quick cash. Like, say, Warner Bros needs some extra scratch to put together a tentpole feature – those DC movies ain’t gonna be cheap – so they go and greenlight Bobby DeNiro and Billy Crystal in Analyze The Other. Because folks will vaguely recall seeing Analyze This or Analyze That and say, “I can take my dad to that.” Dads are ruining Hollywood.
Matt: If Bruno Kirby was alive today, I guarantee someone greenlights City Slickers 3: The Haunting of Curly’s Ghost Town. For every original idea, like Bridesmaids, there’s a suit in Burbank getting someone to write a sequel draft. Name recognition created about twenty American Pie: Someone’s Got Boobs direct-to-DVDs. Lines need to be drawn. Mine was drawn tonight.
DR: Mine was drawn at Sister Act 2: Back in the Act.
Matt: Isn’t it Back in the Habit?
DR: Or whatever. You know what I mean. Even when I was a kid, I knew these movies were bullshit. It’s easy for me to say now, and people can roll their eyes and say, “sure, Jarrod,” but it’s true. I had kids rolling their eyes at me when I was twelve and speculating about a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. Mrs Doubtfire 2: Beach Patrol.
Matt: I’d watch the shit out of that movie. Like the almost-made Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian… true story. When I was I kid, I loved sequels, because even smart kids don’t know better. It wasn’t until 1994’s Police Academy: Mission to Moscow that I was old enough to pass the Kool-Aid test. And then it was sometime in my twenties that I started writing my treatment for Police Academy 8: Mahoney Vs. Harris, which would be the Alien Vs. Predator of comedy.
DR: Studios know it – they know it in their bones – that these movies are awful. And of course they don’t care. That’s the point. The pure hate, the absolute malice that is poured into these movies is staggering. Like when Mike Myers was hamming it up in Goldmember. You knew what was driving him, and it wasn’t artistic merit.
Matt: It was the same thing that drove him to make The Love Guru. The same thing that created The Cat in the Hat, which is a spiritual sequel to Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Myers alongside a desperate Dana Carvey pitching Wayne’s World 3: Now There’s The Internet.
DR: I think about dramas, and the lack of obligatory sequels out there. Just because a film made a bundle and everyone likes it doesn’t mean there has to be a sequel. But I think that’s mostly attributed to the amount of bad taste that would have to be heaped upon an universally-beloved drama. Any one can shit on a comedy – it’s funny, and I guess that means a comedy is fair game. But because Martin Scorsese isn’t protecting the sanctity of Bruce Almighty, we get Evan Almighty. There IS a reason we won’t be seeing a Gone Fella or a Malcolm X 2: I TOLD You To Get Your Hand Out My Pocket.
Matt: I for one would welcome some dramatic sequels. Especially some M. Night Shaymalan sequels. The Sixth Sense 2: Ghost Detective. The Village 2: Now It’s the Future. The Happening 2: Something Else Happens.
DR: I wouldn’t mind seeing Heat II: Hotter, Antichrist: Armageddon, or The Departed 2: Where Are All the Cops?
Matt: Sometimes, comedy sequels are accidentally amazing, though. For instance, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which is great because it knows how absurd it is, or Gremlins 2: The New Batch, which is a comedic sequel to a horror movie, and is also absolutely insane. However, when in doubt, Hollywood can always remake and reboot. That’s why we’re getting Ghostbusters: The All-Girls Edition instead of Ghostbusters 3: Dan Aykroyd’s Lost His Mind.
DR: I was thinking about Ghostbusters 3 a lot tonight. When it comes to fruition, it will have been over twenty-five years since Ghostbusters 2. I know that most folks like to fold their laundry with AMC on the telly, but I’m sick of having to suffer the dreck that comes my way just because Todd McIrishman in Des Plaines, Illinois likes his Ford trucks and his Animal House.
Matt: Speaking of AMC, you know, American Movie Classics? They’re playing A Nightmare on Elm Street tonight. The one from from 2010. Later, they’ll be treating audiences to such classics as Predator 2, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem.
DR: That channel contributes to most of everything that’s wrong with big budget films today. That channel made me obscure the fact that I actually love Goodfellas. What’s the point in watching anything when it’s edited for content and running time? I’ll tell you what the point is – nostalgia. Nostalgia makes Mackenzee Bailey of Lexington, Nebraska power through the flu easier because Mean Girls is on AMC.
Matt: Nostalgia is the reason I write Retrograding, because I feel the need to reconcile my memories with some truth. Sure, I still love some bad movies, and I love some movies because they’re bad. All this incessant sequelization does is actively reinforce that idea until it saps away all the fun. It all becomes redundant, pointless “entertainment.”
DR: I couldn’t have put it better. And yet – and I know we should wrap this up – but isn’t it funny that we shit on sequels to comedies but we salivate over Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Matt: Other genres that make for decent-to-good sequels – like comic book movies – offer the promise of a new adventure in a world we already understand. That’s why so many second installments of action or adventure type movies work so well: the origin is done, let’s get to the new story. Comedy sequels take some elements that worked previously, retool them as necessary, repeat jokes and gags, and give actors checks for their time, not their effort. That’s why Short Circuit 2 features Johnny 5 assisting in a diamond heist and getting into a gang fight.
DR: As opposed to better understanding the human condition. I get it. But if time and experience have taught us anything, it’s fine to pass on what we know in our hearts will only waste our time. For us, I know there won’t be a “never again”, but I hope that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did tonight.
ANTI-MONITOR – MATT: Hollywood cannot help but prove the point that everyone seems to be out of original ideas. Dumb And Dumber To is the Farrelly Brothers’ attempt to reclaim their glory years, returning to the film that launched their careers (and hopefully will also end them). Gone is the charm and heart of the original, replaced by farts and ball-punching. Does Jim Carrey need to pay off some debts? Is Jeff Daniels doing refurbishments on his Purple Rose Theater? Clearly, these guys aren’t in this for the love of the craft, because they soullessly overact a worthless script while Rob Riggle wears a wig until he doesn’t.
Dumb and Dumber To is a gag movie, in more ways than one. Primarily, the plot consists of repetitive, unfunny gags (and one actually funny joke). But under the whole thing, one can’t seem to help feeling like the victim of one of Harry or Lloyd’s gags, one that goes beyond too far. This sequel seems to negate the great things about the original, contradicting it by being unbearable and insincere. Peter and Bobby Farrelly understood the silly gross-out comedy that was popular in the ’90s, but as their careers have progressed, they have lost that grip completely. While my expectations were certainly low, I at least expected to laugh. Unfortunately, somebody needs to pay a mortgage or buy a new jet ski, and sometimes that means I have to watch Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels fart for two hours.
ANTI-MONITOR – JARROD: Did you watch this? Because if you did, the exact same experience is had in watching Dumb and Dumber To, plus or minus any actual enjoyment.
CONSENSUS: For a film that has the balls to put ‘Dumb’ in its own title twice, Dumb and Dumber To drags everyone involved with its production – including its audience – down into the yawning chasm of mediocrity.