CINEMA: Grossing Out

Dumb and Dumber scores high with low, low comedy

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High in the Himalayas lives the Guru of Low Comedy, surrounded by his tapes of Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and the brothers Zucker. "Great Master, what is the secret of a hit?" ask Hollywood's best and richest when they are ushered into his presence. "Make 'em laugh," is the inevitable reply, "any damn way you can."

It is said that fastidious filmmakers retreat in dismay muttering, "Does he mean, like, bathroom jokes?" Ignoring the advice, they end up dying out there with cute, cautious comedies like Speechless and I.Q. (not to mention spineless farces like Mixed Nuts). Meanwhile, Dumb and Dumber becomes the most popular movie in America. "Gross-out grosses," its rivals may sniff, and they would not be wrong. But so what? The fact is that D and D -- in comparison with which Jim Carrey's other pictures look as if they were scripted by Oscar Wilde -- makes you laugh out loud for almost its entire running time.

Lloyd, the lead moron in Peter Farrelly's film, is played by Carrey, sublimely confident that he knows what he's doing as he attempts to return a briefcase full of funny money to a woman (Lauren Holly) with whom he is smitten. This involves a cross-country journey with Harry (Jeff Daniels), Lloyd's equally dense roommate, in a truck that looks like a gigantic sheep dog. In order to enjoy the pair's company, adult viewers must regress to those thrilling days of yesteryear when bodily dysfunction represented the height of hilarity. But Carrey (ably abetted here by the woofly Daniels) is both symbol and satirist of our apparently irresistible dumbing down. Astonished attention must be paid.