To put things in perspective for you, my dear readers, when the original Dumb and Dumber was released in 1994, I was still just about a year shy of being born. As such, you could say that this literally is the film that has been in the works for my entire life. Yes, while some people might be able to make that claim about something a little more epic like the new Star Wars film, I get the sequel to the movie with the most well regarded poop joke of all time.
Dumb and Dumber To picks up twenty years after we left lovable dumb-asses Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) stranded on the side of the road at the end of the first film. After his great pursuit of love in that adventure proved fruitless, Lloyd pulls a prank that Daniel Day Lewis would think goes a little far, faking a catatonic mental illness for all that time just to trick Harry. When he does finally break character, he finds out that Harry is in need of a new kidney, and that the only possible donor is Harry’s long lost bastard daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin) that he had with the infamous Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), who gave her up for adoption. When they go to see her, all she can muster up is an address, setting Harry and Lloyd off on yet another road trip involving billion dollar inventions, angry twins (Rob Riggle), and a brewing murder conspiracy.
I’m not one for physical, or gross out comedy. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the art, it’s just not what makes me laugh. However, with that said, the original Dumb and Dumber is one of my top five comedies of all time. While it plays into many conventions that annoy me in a great deal of other comedies, there’s such an irresistible charm to it, and Carrey and Daniels are quite simply pure magic in their committed and inventive performances. As such, I went into ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ with excitement, but a palpable sense of apprehension. I really wasn’t confident that the same appeal would carry over after so many years, especially after the fairly lackluster trailers.
The biggest complement that I can give this film is that, generally speaking, The Farrelly Brothers, Jim Carrey, and Jeff Daniels have managed to capture the spirit of the original here. Instantly, it becomes clear that these two actors have not lost a step in all of these years, retaining the fantastic chemistry that they had in the original in spades. Unlike other physical comedies, where the characters just seem to be mugging their way through each pratfall (looking at you Paul Blart: Mall Cop and your godawful looking sequel), Carrey and Daniels infuse Harry and Lloyd with genuine childlike energy. We love these guys because despite how utterly idiotic they are, they are utterly innocent and the jokes take full advantage of that. It’s clear that these guys had a blast being back together, and whenever we’re just focussing on them being on screen together (which is thankfully most of the time) the gags work, and that goes a long way in making this film enjoyable.
Where we start running into problems is perhaps something that was inevitable from the beginning. The film almost painstakingly goes back to the original formula, and style, and while that certainly makes for some fun nostalgia, it also feels dated. While plenty of it is still very amusing, it feels like watching a brand new Abbot and Costello skit being preformed before you, the screwball humor not quite translating into this day and age of raunchy stoner comedies like ‘Neighbors’ or joke a second meta ones like the Jump Street films. I’m conflicted as to whether or not the film should have attempted to modernize itself a bit more, but I certainly think that breaking from the road movie skeleton might have helped.
The film also severely undermines it’s comedy by making a major mistake that the first film understood how to avoid. In that film, Harry and Lloyd were stupid, but the supporting characters around them were fairly normal, and in the case of the antagonists, even somewhat threatening. A great deal of the comedy came from their stunned reactions to our leads, and how out of place they were in the upscale society they found themselves in. This film on the other hand, takes place in a world where everyone is stupid or exaggerated, undercutting the proceedings significantly. For example, at one point in the film, Harry and Lloyd enter a science convention in graduation caps and gowns, and try to pass themselves off as an important doctor. Somehow, none of these astrophysicists or biologists sense any slight problem, equating everything to “Aspergers Syndrome”. Oh, I get it, because smart people are mentally ill, HA!
Also, the supporting cast is a mostly a drag. Rob Riggle tries his best, but somehow does not get one laugh out of two characters, Laurie Holden (who plays the primary antagonist) brings absolutely nothing to the table, seeming more interested in what’s for lunch that day, and Rachel Melvin overplays the ditzy beyond words daughter. The only one who gets off with some giggles is Kathleen Turner, who as it turns out is not only a very good sport about her old age, but still just as charismatic as she’s ever been.
Dumb and Dumber To is certainly not as bad as it could have been, and for fans of the original, it’ll be great fun to see Carrey and Daniels together again. However, while there are plenty of good gags, plenty more fall totally flat, not quite understanding what made the first film so special. If we had gotten this instead of the god awful ‘Dumb and Dumberer’ in 2003, it might have faired better, but ultimately it really does feel like a film out of time, and with the great looking ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ on the horizon, this might not even be the best screwball comedy of the month.