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One of the directors of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary goes solo for Green Book, his first “serious” feature effort.

Director Peter Farrelly, sans little brother Bobby, gives us a film that’s essentially a remake of Driving Miss Daisy with the roles reversed, starring Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and the Academy Award-winning actor from Moonlight (Mahershala Ali). It’s a feel-good movie about race relations that goes light on the grit and heavy on the sentiment.

The film is based on a true story. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, an Italian bouncer at the Copacabana who finds himself temporarily without a job as the club is getting renovated. His next gig installs him as a driver and bodyguard for Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), an African-American classical pianist who is touring with a jazz trio in the early 1960s deep South.

This is a road movie, with Tony driving and Don sitting in the back. As they venture south, they talk about fried chicken, Chubby Checker and letter-writing. There is nothing in their dialogue that is remotely original or surprising, but Farrelly wisely has these two guys in the car. Without them, this film would be a total slog. The duo is, at times, fun to watch, even when the movie around them isn’t.

The titular Green Book is a guide for African Americans, listing safe havens where Don can eat and find shelter. The deeper into the South the tour goes, the lousier the accommodations for Don become. A rich man up north, Don is reduced to skeevy rooms and nothing but a bottle of Cutty Sark to get him through the night.

Segregation rears its ugly head as Don tries to do things such as buy a suit or eat in a restaurant where he’s been hired to play. This is where Tony becomes the hero, stepping in for his boss and occasionally cracking a few skulls. Yes, Tony is Dr. Don’s white knight, a man who will learn to love just a little bit more, regardless of the color of somebody’s skin; he may even use a few fewer racial slurs before the credits roll.

The film doesn’t feel like it was made today. It has the sensibility of a movie made somewhere around the late ’80s to mid ’90s. It’s a little too safe and predictable for its own good. A movie about racism should be uglier; this one tries a little too hard to not upset anybody. I have no problem with an optimistic viewpoint and a happy ending, but something about this movie, even though the characters are based on real people, rings a little false and shallow.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable to some degree. Mortensen, best known for dramatic and action roles, gets a chance to show off some comedic timing. He also put on more than 40 pounds for the role. That, coupled with a typical Italian accent, makes him OK in the type of role that used to go to the likes of Danny Aiello or the late Dennis Farina.

Mahershala is good as Shirley—so good you’ll wish the script matched the majesty of his work. Seamless special effects make it look like he can play a mean piano. (Kris Bowers, the film’s score composer, is also Ali’s piano double.)

Green Book is the sort of movie that has “Oscar” written all over it, but I won’t be trumpeting it when it’s time for the golden boys to be passed out. The movie is average at best, and I expect a little more heft from a movie with this subject matter.

Green Book is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

After numerous stops and starts, the Dumb and Dumber sequel has finally made it to the screen, 20 years after the original.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return as Lloyd and Harry, movie history’s two biggest dumbasses. While Carrey slides right back into the role of the mischievous goofball, Daniels seems to be forcing it a bit, so the chemistry is off. Even worse, Bobby and Peter Farrelly make their two stars labor for laughs with a script loaded with hit-and-(mostly)-miss gags.

The plot involves Harry finding out he has a daughter, and the two going on another road trip to find her. (Harry also needs a kidney, thus the need to find the daughter, for donor purposes.) There’s a gag involving an old woman under the covers that I can’t believe made it into a PG-13 movie, and a couple of other decent laughs—but the chuckles are far and few between.

Diehard fans of the original will be happy to see these characters back, though the happiness will be accompanied by the sadness of wasted opportunity. An after-the-credits scene claims there will be another sequel 20 years from now. I’m hoping that’s a joke, because there really is no need to visit these characters again.

I can’t believe how nasty this film is to Kathleen Turner. I’m a little mad at myself for thinking the way she’s taunted is the funniest thing in the movie.

Dumb and Dumber To is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews