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Movie reviews: 'Dumb and Dumber To,' 'The Theory of Everything'

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"Dumb and Dumber To" (PG-13) ***(out of four)

What you see is what you get in "Dumb and Dumber To," Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels' first movie together since their 1994 smash comedy "Dumb and Dumber." "To," as evidenced by the deliberately misspelled title, is a dumb movie, but it's supposed to be – and like the original, its unapologetic dopiness is what makes the sequel so charming.

Appropriately, "To" picks up 20 years after the events of the first "Dumber," as Lloyd (Carrey) pulls a long-brewing prank on his equally dimwitted buddy, Harry (Daniels) – a ruse that's recounted throughout the movie that's far too precious to be revealed here.

Things turn somber quickly, though, when Harry tells his Lloyd that he's in need of a new kidney. Ever the optimists, the two immediately look for a solution and soon find out that Harry has an illegitimate daughter from 22 years before who may end up being a lifesaver.

Reuniting with the girl's mom, Fraida Felcher (a wonderfully salty Kathleen Turner), Harry and Lloyd learn the daughter, the bubble-headed Penny (Rachel Melvin), was adopted by a world-renown scientist (Steve Tom) and lives across the country. Naturally, that means another adventurous road trip for the misinformed duo is in store, and extreme hijinks ensue at every turn – especially since Penny's gold-digging stepmother (Laurie Holden) and her handyman lover (Rob Riggle) have inserted themselves in the disastrous mix.

"Dumb and Dumber To" is hardly a perfect movie – part is dumb-funny and part is dumb-stupid – but there's no doubt fans of the original will be quite pleased with the outcome.

Of course, the biggest appeal of "To" is Carrey and Daniels, who gleefully reprise their roles and get back up on their bicycle, sometimes quite literally, like the first film was yesterday. Their comedic chemistry hasn't missed a beat, and while some the jokes completely misfire, the duo remains completely likeable.

The movie wouldn't be complete, of course, without the humorous touch of filmmaking brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, whose madcap antics remain firmly intact for "To." The movie has plenty of signature Farrelly moments, from gross-out humor and cruel jokes to sight gags and slapstick, but better yet, the brothers underneath it all have cleverly crafted a storyline that has its share of surprising moments.

One of the best surprises of "To" is the realization that the Farrellys' filmmaking sensibilities haven't changed in the past 20 years, even though times have. Undaunted by the touchy-feely, politically correct attitudes of the day, the Farrellys clearly aren't afraid of offending anybody. It's a relief knowing that they're a pair of filmmakers who are smart enough to know they'd be doing their audiences a disservice by, well, dumbing it down.

"The Theory of Everything" (PG-13) ***(out of four)

Eddie Redmayne has rightfully earned his place among the stars in "The Theory of Everything," a chronicle of famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking's battle with motor neuron disease and life with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), his faithful partner for 30 years.

Redmayne, who was terrific as Sir Lawrence Olivier's (Kenneth Branagh) assistant opposite Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe in the brilliant "My Week with Marilyn" and as the chivalrous Marius in "Les Miserables," easily gives the best performance of his burgeoning career as Hawking. From the minor twitch of the cheek as the disease sets in and his problems with coordination and speech, to the eventual confinement to a wheelchair and dependence on a computerized voice to talk, Redmayne – who expertly contorts his body to look like Hawking – appears to be channeling the scientist throughout the film.

While "The Theory of Everything" has its fair share of theoretical physics jargon and debates about black holes and the like, it mostly offers a peek at Hawking the man as he faces a grim future (he was given two years to live upon diagnosis in 1963), and the attitude that propelled him to greatness and effectively kept him alive as the years passed. Most people only know of the now-72-year-old Hawking as the wheelchair-bound scientist with the voice modulator, but "The Theory of Everything" reveals his tremendous sense of humor and look at his family life, to his blissful union with Jane that ended in heartbreak (the film is based on Jane's memoir).

Like any film based on a real person, "The Theory of Everything" falls into a fair share of the "based on a true story" trappings, including historical inaccuracies and tools like the use of composite characters to help compact the story of this complicated man's life. You don't have to look far to find out how even some basic details don't match up, or discover differing opinions on the personal actions of Hawking the person.

As a performance piece, however, there's no doubt Redmayne is masterful as Hawking, as he approaches the same kind of greatness that won Daniel Day-Lewis his first Oscar with "My Left Foot." And while Redmayne may not possess the big-screen charisma of Day-Lewis just yet, there's no doubt he's tremendously talented and has a big and bright future ahead of him.

Perhaps his best attribute at this point is his generousness as an actor, as you never once feel like he's trying to crowd out an inspired and emotional performance by Jones in a very pivotal role. In the end, there's no doubt "The Theory of Everything" has its share of flaws, but the multiple talents of the film's two stars adds up to a perfect equation.

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