I'm with Stupid 

Dumb and Dumberer is as advertised.

If I were permitted a mere six words to sum up my thoughts on Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, I would raise a glass of very expensive champagne and toast, "At last! There's truth in advertising." I would mean this on several levels: title (the film is dumb, and dumberer, as it were, than the first), advertising slogan ("Before the first movie, there was high school. They missed the bus"), the other ad slogan ("The sequel the original stars were too smart to make"), etc. And yet, I still lamented when I exited the theater, "Well, that's 90 minutes and $5 I will never see again," and I thought about all the things I could have done with my time, like reading James Joyce's Ulysses or watching The Seventh Seal or something that would make me smart or smarterer. Once again, I am my own victim.

The plot is razor-thin and dull as a board. Harry (Derek Richardson) and Lloyd (Eric Christian Olsen), the "beloved" characters from the original 1994 film Dumb and Dumber, meet. And, boy, are they special. In fact, so special are they that they get to ride on their own school bus you know, that short one that only the special kids ride. The corrupt, cartoonish Principal Collins (Eugene Levy) has been bilking the state of education money for years and finally has devised a plot to scam $100,000 by creating a phony Special Needs class. He assigns the lunch lady (Cheri Oteri), with whom he is having a clandestine affair, to teach the new class. Harry and Lloyd are, of course, prime Special Needs material, and they are in turn charged with recruiting other students to fill up the class in order to warrant the $100,000. What ensues is a mindless series of scenes showing our dumb friends in action, loosely related to a subplot involving a young reporter for the high school newspaper, Jessica (Rachel Nichols). She knows something is afoot and is out to get the scoop of the year. Meanwhile, both Harry and Lloyd mistake her journalistic interest in them for romantic advances. Will they jeopardize their friendship for her affections? Yes.

Harry and Lloyd's selection of fellow Special Needers may be the cleverest move in the whole film. And what they come back with are an injured skateboarder, an Asian exchange student, a punk, a concussed football player, and the school mascot, whom they mistake for a half-man/half-horse when he takes his horse head off. Harry and Lloyd's classmates aren't retarded they're just slackers, avoiding real homework. This is a rather artful dodge, if I do say so, acquitting the filmmakers from actually portraying mentally challenged persons in a film whose protagonists are supposed to be the "special"-est around. That is one level of offensiveness this film manages to avoid.

But back to business: This is one dumb movie. And yet there's nobody to blame but the writer Robert Brenner in his screenwriting debut and director Troy Miller, making his directing debut. Neither one seems to know how to structure a story or tell it stylishly. Just as the plot gets going, there are seemingly endless excuses for our heroes to resort to some distracting "dumberer" business like getting brain-freezes on slushies or making time for hot dogs while in pursuit of the "kidnapped" Jessica.

There's a lot of wasted potential here. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were originally associated with playing these characters, and I wish they had. This would have been a worthier comic enterprise coming from those two maestros of tackiness and disgust.

This is not to devalue the efforts of the leads, though. Olsen does a truly uncanny impersonation of Jim Carrey all manic tics and twitches. And Richardson manages to suggest a young Jeff Daniels while contributing a doofy sweetness all his own the only thing in Dumberer worthy of a better film. And nobody needs to put a funny outfit on Levy. He's funny enough as is and, given good material, is a superior comedian. Sadly, this is even worse than Bringing Down the House (gasp!), and Levy isn't one to transcend.

As sequels go, this one is kind of like Problem Child 3, which didn't even have John Ritter. Without the choice zaniness of Daniels and Carrey, there's just no reason to waste the cash or time on a movie that should have been sent straight to video. n

Mississippi Movies

As the official arts agency for the city of Oxford and Lafayette County, Mississippi, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council's mission is "to access, celebrate, and promote the arts with all citizens." This year marks the council's sixth year sponsoring the Youth Music Theater Workshop and the creation of an arts-intensive Boys and Girls Club. Now comes the first Oxford Film Festival, June 19th-22nd.

According to Elaine Abadie, executive director of the YAC, "[The festival] started very simply and just got bigger and bigger." The Oxford Film Festival was the combined brainchild of Ron Shapiro, a well-noted local "guru of film," and Robert Freeland, owner of the Hoka Cafe and As Seen on TV, Oxford's only independent video store. Both men just "wanted to show more movies" in Oxford and, through these movies, help to further expand viewpoints. Three years ago, there was no place nearby where independent or foreign films were shown. "To see independent films, you had to go to Memphis," says Abadie.

To change that fact, 40 film enthusiasts and filmmakers of the YAC set into motion events that would highlight the achievements of Mississippians in the film industry. The responses to the nascent festival were a rousing success. "We received over 200 entries for our film festival," Abadie says. "Only 50 were accepted, plus the 10 films we plan to showcase."

The council's efforts led to the creation of the Powerhouse Community Arts and Cultural Center, a facility that will house a 160-seat theater, exhibit space, studio space, classrooms, and the YAC office. The Powerhouse will replace the City of Oxford Community Arts Center and will be completed around August 2003. Because the facility will not be ready in time for the film festival, movies will be screened at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Community Arts on the University of Mississippi campus.

The festival itself includes appearances by Mississippi-born screenwriters David Hayter, who wrote the screenplays for X-Men, X2: X-Men United, and The Hulk; Anne Rapp, screenwriter for Cookie's Fortune and Dr. T and the Women; and David Sheffield, who wrote Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, and the upcoming remake of 1974's Uptown Saturday Night. The festival will feature 60 independent films from Europe, South Asia, and Canada and an assortment of filmmaking panels, including ones for documentaries and experimental film. Among the films are the award-winning documentary Genghis Blues by Roko and Adrian Belic and Charles Burnett's critically acclaimed The Blues and The Annihilation of Fish. Kids' films and an animation workshop as well as a variety of thought-provoking "kid-friendly" (and kid-made) short films will provide different levels of entertainment for the whole family.

Tickets are $10 each day or $25 for the three-day event. For more information, check out the YAC Web site, OxfordArts.com. Janitha Robinson

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