This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
The world wasn’t really crying out for a prequel to 1994’s Dumb & Dumber, but that’s what we’ve got. The first film was a lowbrow masterpiece, so astonishingly stupid as to be a lot of fun. Its influence can be seen in nearly every teen-oriented comedy since then, either from the Farrelly brothers themselves or any other Not Another American Pie Teen Movie Campsite Gigglefest Knockoff. This effort falls into the imitator than originator category, feeling a little tired and old at points, but it above average for this type of film.
Scarily, among director Troy Miller’s earliest credits is The Noel Edmonds Show, with Dumb And Dumberer : When Harry Met Lloyd being his first feature film. Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the great joy we feel that Noel Edmonds is no longer plaguing us on a weekly basis. Miller must have had nightmares going into this film thinking about how to convincingly pull off younger versions of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, two of the more high-profile and recognisable faces in Hollywood. Carrey’s career in particular sky-rocketed off the back of the original. Miller must have breathed a huge sigh of relief on finding Derek Richardson and Eric Christian Olsen.
Of the two, Richardson probably has the easiest job. The blonde wig of straggly hair is enough to give his character an instant, albeit cheap laugh and to emulate Daniel’s role as Harry Dunne he merely has to be really dumb, kinda sweet and kinda endearing. That easier said than done, but he pulls it off well. Looking like him isn’t enough, you have to feel some sort of personality there too so it’s fortunate that it’s there. Richardson does everything asked of him more than well enough and there’s enough chemistry between him and Olsen to give a believable start to the relationship developing into that of the first film. For his first acting role of any note, he does well indeed.
While Richardson does a good job, Olsen is incredible. He simply is Jim Carrey. It’s like they’ve developed a time machine and picked up a young version of him. (Perhaps they have, although Lloyd’s in-film idea for travelling back in time, running in a revolving door really quickly seems unlikely to work.) Olsen covers every rubber faced contortion that Carrey pulls off, the same quirky mannerisms and dancing, and crucially manages to recapture the same slight undertone of evil nastiness that Carrey has in the first film. It’s occasionally unsettling watching him, it’s almost too much like a younger Jim Carrey for it not to be him. He looks like him, sounds like him, and while this is entirely unfounded speculation until we see him in something else, I get the impression he may be funnier that Carrey. Despite Carrey’s successful (critically, if not commercially) serious acting roles, in his comedy work it always revolves around the same rubber-faced gurning at the camera and pratfalls, which got real old real quick. Olsen seems to have the charisma and timing to go on to better things, although I may prove myself incorrect if I ever get round to watching Not Another Teen Movie, one of his few previous roles.
It’s a pity the script can’t imitate the original as well as Richardson and Olsen do. You’re never going to see something like this for a well thought out drama, but the storyline feels particularly tacked on here to the extent that they might as well not have bothered. We join Harry and Lloyd’s tale just before they meet, both being sent off by their respective parents to their first day at high school. If you need any clarification of how dumb Lloyd is he lives with his janitor father, a criminally underused Luis Guzman in the school itself. As he runs off to catch the school bus to his father’s bemusement, he runs smack dab into Harry at full pelt. Harry’s mother had conned him into going to school by following a specially made treasure map. Somehow, they eventually make it to school.
Principle Collins (Eugene Levy) is a man with a plan, and that’s to swindle as much money out of the school as possible allowing him to elope to Hawaii with the dinner lady, Ms. Heller (Cheri Oteli). His latest plan is to con the government out of a lucrative grant by setting up a fake Special Needs Class, taught by Heller. Who would pass as retarded enough to require a class like this? Harry and Lloyd are quickly recruited, and charged with making up the rest of the class. As there’s no homework and no teaching involved, this doesn’t prove too difficult to do. Quickly signing up are the school bully, a Chinese foreign exchange student, a badly concussed running back, a skate-rat with a broken arm and leg (who Harry and Lloyd refer to as the little crippled kid) and a few others, but they’re hardly vital to what passes for a plot, but there are enough good gags along the way to make this worthwhile.
More essential is Jessica (Rachel Nichols), a crack investigative journalist for the school paper who suspects Collins of some shady dealings and is on the prowl for evidence. Rightly suspecting the new class is some sort of scam, she starts questioning Harry and Lloyd to help her find proof of his misdeeds. Along the way, Harry and Lloyd both fall for this hardnosed and somewhat bitchy beauty, basically as an excuse for a fight and reconciliation (involving a stolen stuffed polar bear which they then skin and turn into an attractive set of daywear). Handily, Collins has been taping everything that goes on in his office for no particularly good reason and keeping the tapes, and has kept the incriminating evidence in a chest. Which looks like a treasure chest. Recall Harry’s map and I’m sure you’ll see where this is going.
Still, it’s the gags rather than a tightly scripted plot you’d go to see this for, so how funny is this? That will depend on your opinion of this type of comedy, obviously. If you don’t like the gross out stupidity delivered by American Pie et al this absolutely will not be your thing. There’s a pretty good chance that it won’t be even if you do like them. It is in pretty much every respect average. I can’t really go into the funny bits in any depth because that would ruin it for anyone wanting to see this, which leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Let’s say that around half of its gags work and half don’t, which puts it firmly into the average category. Quite a lot of it is based around the main characters sloppy eating habits and an obsession with faecal matter. If this and pratfalls and casual violence and casual stupidity hasn’t made you chuckle previously this won’t give you any sudden revelations.
As I’ve said if you like this kind of thing, it’s a reasonably good example of the genre. Personally, I’m not that fond of them because they seem to repeat the same jokes over and over with different casts and I’m bored of them by this point. I had much the same problem here, with it all feeling very familiar in places. That said, I laughed a fair bit, so it can’t be all bad. In the final analysis, as reflected by this review, the most interesting thing about this film is the uncanny resemblance of the leads of this to the original film, and it’s almost freaky enough to be worth the cost of the ticket itself. Almost….