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Movie reviews: Dumb and Dumber will leave you numb and number

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Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber

Cameron Diaz in Annie

Cameron Diaz in Annie

Kno Tiki

Kno Tiki

Night at the Museum 3

Night at the Museum 3

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Dumb and Dumber

It's certainly easy to understand just why the Farrelly Brothers would reckon reprising two of their greatest comic creations twenty years after they first had audiences rolling in the aisles makes sense.

The asinine antics of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne back in 1994 were a breath of frequently foul air which grossed-out more than $250m in worldwide takings and, with Hollywood essentially being a numbers game, this move was, like the core characters, a no-brainer.

In addition, the two decades since the first film have seen the Farrellys' crown as purveyors of vulgar but genuinely funny farces superceded by the ever-decreasing returns, both financial and artistic, of the Judd Apatow stable while the race to the bottom in terms of good taste and proper humour has long ago been won by Adam Sandler and the likes of the Hangover franchise.

In fact, for an industry so determined on churning out variations of the same plot again and again it's something of a miracle that a sequel to Dumb and Dumber hasn't appeared until now. Alas, that's about as miraculous as things get.

Even before the lights go down we're in trouble, courtesy of that stupid title. If you're relying on a pun in the title of a movie then the stench of desperation is in the air and that's certainly the case here.

The film crawls through its running-time, with gags and often entire scenes left hanging and waiting for a punchline which never, ever comes. Honestly, if you thought the trailer was funny then you'd be better off at home and waiting for it to come up every hour or so rather than wasting money actually going to see this disaster.

For what it's worth, the paper-thin plot (which took no less than six - six! - people to write) involves the pair reuniting after twenty years apart with Harry (Jeff Daniels) visiting Lloyd (Jim Carrey) in a mental hospital only to discover that Lloyd has been faking his illness as a joke (not a spoiler, by the way - it's in the trailer).

Anyway, Harry needs a replacement kidney, discovers that he may have fathered a daughter with old flame Fraida Felcher (a game but wasted Kathleen Turner) so the pair set off to find the former's offspring and persuade her to donate the organ.

Added into this mirthless mix is some nonsense about the potential daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), being really stupid, and having to deliver a package on behalf of her genius scientist stepfather (Steve Tom) to a conference in El Paso.

Whereas back in 1994 Harry and Lloyd were gormless idiots let loose in a world they could barely comprehend, this time out there's an undercurrent of creepiness about them, not least in Carrey's chararacter positively slavering over the possibility of getting it together with his pal's daughter.

Maybe the half-dozen writers on the project reckoned that this subplot made the movie somehow more 'edgy', in keeping with contemporary standards of gross-out, but, really, it's just wrong and unsettling.

Carrey is a fine actor but is all at sea here, while Daniels looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than appearing in a movie which has clearly been hacked into some semblance of shape by a committee, and one with no sense of humour at that. In fact, I shudder to think at what was edited out of this funless farrago of a film, given that I didn't actually laugh at all during the screening. An atrocious excuse for a comedy.

*

ANNIE

(Musical/drama. Starring Jamie Foxx, Quevenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Amanda Troya, Adewale Akinvwoye-Agbaje. Directed by Will Gluck. Cert PG)

I suppose it's only right that I begin here with a confession : I've never actually seen the two previous screen versions of Annie and can only go on what this latest version has to offer and, to be honest, it's quite entertaining.

The setting is contemporary New York City, with Annie (Quevenzhane Wallis, who made such a stunning debut in Beasts of the Southern Wild), living in a foster home with a handful of other girls, all under the hateful eye of Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a booze-sodden former singer who barely tolerates the children in return for regular welfare cheques. Following a near-fatal accident she's saved by Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a mobile phone mogul and aspiring Mayor of the city who's advised by his oily spin doctor (Bobby Cannavale) that taking Annie to live with him would be gold-dust for popularity ratings.

That's the story in a nutshell but along the way, naturally, the initially aloof Stacks warms to Annie, as is also the case for his lovely personal assistant, Grace, played by the luminous Rose Byrne (no relation). The opening part of the film tends towards the cutesy and schmaltzy but, gradually, things get better, with Foxx and Byrne in particular giving the movie something approaching depth.

The musical numbers throughout, rearranged originals coupled with a handful of specially-composed songs, are fine and even though the tone of the arrangements and choreography tends more towards a contemporary, urban feel Annie still makes for a perfectly decent slice of family entertainment.

***

KON-TIKI

(Drama. Starring Pal Hagen, Anders Christiansen, Tobias Santelmann, Anges Kittelsen, Gustav Skarsgard. Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. Cert IFI)

Lovers of seafaring adventure should lap up this stirring account of the 1947 expedition in which the brave - some would say insane - Norwegian anthropologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl (a mightily impressive Pal Hagen) decided to prove that the peoples of Polynesia originally came from Peru by setting off on a balsa wood raft to drift for 5,000 miles across the Pacific. That Heyerdahl actually managed to persuade five other people to accompany him in this ambitious voyage is testament to his charisma and the film-makers make full use of their leading man in this regard.

The sections where the crew feel they're losing their minds amid scary storms and even eerier calms are gripping - not dissimilar to JC Chandor's great All is Lost with Robert Redford, in fact - while the encounters with sharks are truly exciting. Definitely one for the Boys Own adventurer in us all.

***

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM III

(Drama/Action. Starring Tony Leung, Ziyl Zhang, Chang Chen, Wang Qingxiang. Directed by Hong Kar-Wai. cert 15A)

The third (and seemingly final) Night at the Museum movie takes Ben Stiller's night guard Larry Daley to London's British Museum, where he and his exhibit cohorts attempt to solve a mystery that threatens the magic that began in the first film.

Featuring a cavalcade of special effects and a handful of new characters, the weirdly subtitled Secret of the Tomb is about as enjoyable as the first two movies - that is, for families and younger audiences, it's not the worst way to spend a holiday afternoon. However, also like the first two, Night at the Museum 3 won't be making anyone's "Best of the Year" list, despite its all-star cast and Disney-like charm.

Eight years running, Fox's modern fantasy franchise is starting to show its age, as are the returning cast and crew. Stiller's deadpan humour is ever present in this third installment, but that could easily be mistaken for the actor's growing lack of enthusiasm. Stiller also plays a neanderthal that looks strikingly like his main character Larry, but the less said about that the better. Costars Robin Williams (Teddy Roosevelt), Owen Wilson (Jedediah) and Steve Coogan (Octavius) seem to be having a bit more fun than Stiller, but only just. In fact, the most enthusiastic returner here is Dexter the capuchin monkey, whose half-practical, half-CG performance will probably get the biggest rise out of young viewers.

**

 


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