Dumb and Dumber To (2014)
Dirs: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Remember those halcyon days before 2008’s Indiana-Jones-Movie-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named when we all thought another adventure with the world’s best archaeologist would be a rollicking good time? Or how excited every card-carrying fanboy was to see Darth Vader’s origin story prior to 1999’s The Phantom Menace? Then those films came out and years of speculation and goodwill were crushed amid mediocre to terrible filmmaking that betrayed the earlier series’ entries in a clear case of being careful what you wish for.
Yet hope springs eternal, and even with one limp prequel poisoning the well (2003’s Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd), I have to imagine there were fans looking forward to original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reuniting with The Farrelly Brothers for Dumb and Dumber To after the first film proved to be a comedy classic twenty years ago. In fact, it was hard not to get a little excited when set photos leaked of a gap-toothed Jim Carrey posing alongside a frizz-haired Jeff Daniels. Could lightening strike twice and result in that rarest of (pretty) birds – a worthy comedy sequel? (And to a long dormant property no less!)
The answer is a resounding no. Carrey and Daniels are game for goofiness but are let down but a sluggishly paced bore of a film that only occasionally springs to life. Despite running only two minutes longer than its predecessor, Dumb and Dumber To feels like a marathon through an arid desert devoid of jokes. There’s occasionally an oasis – like Carrey chugging down a hotdog hands-free or Daniels obliviously allowing his roommate to cook meth – but for the most part it’s a dire effort that rehashes the first film’s jokes with severely diminished results. You can’t go home again.
The film opens with Daniels’ Harry visiting Carrey’s Lloyd in a long-term care facility. Lloyd’s been comatose for two decades following his failed romance with Mary Swanson and faithful Harry has been dutifully visiting him weekly, changing Lloyd’s diaper and swapping his colostomy bag. In an inspired and supremely stupid gag, it turns out that Lloyd’s been faking the entire time and for no real reason other than to prank Harry. Harry is indignant for about a second before cheerfully accepting Lloyd back into his life, like an abused puppy happy to have his devilish master back. Already there’s an air of malevolence around this relationship that’s not really tempered by the sweetness that The Farrellys usually inject into their films.
The harsh vibe continues when Harry confesses he has a bum kidney and, barring a matching transplant, is not long for this world. Lloyd is clearly not going to suddenly become selfless so it’s up to a random plot device in the form of Harry’s long-lost daughter to serve as a possible answer to his health woes. They set off to find the fabled Fraida Felcher (a mutual sexual conquest mentioned often but never seen in the first film) with Dumb and Dumber To taking the same form as the first Dumb and Dumber – essentially a good-natured road movie about two demented man-children too dumb to exist yet too stubborn to die.
Most gags and plot points that worked the first time around are exhausted in this sequel. The script seems like a Madlibs version of the first movie updated with some current cultural references and ramped up to bludgeon the audience with more outlandish gags. Billy (the blind child from the first flick, think “Pretty Bird”) loses a whole apartment of pets here instead of just one, they show the 2nd-most annoying sound in the world, the high-end destination is a Ted-like conference instead of Aspen, Rob Riggle (in dual roles) plays the put-upon passenger to Harry and Lloyd’s lunacy instead of Mike Starr, etc. Everything that worked once in the first film is done twice here and with half the joy. Doing the math, it appears as though nothing is half-assed in Dumb and Dumber To – it’s quarter-assed at most.
The Farrelly Brother’s hallmarks are all present – the episodic structure, numerous pop music needle drops, weird tangential characters, and a Maine backdrop – and after the relative sweetness of some recent Farrelly Brothers efforts (like Stuck on You and The Three Stooges), they go for broke here and push the boundaries of their PG-13 rating. Amidst the boring plot machinations (involving a dying professor, murder most foul, and a “billion-dollar invention”) there’s implied incest, randy old ladies, ripped-out catheters, and rancid car-farts to make you grin and smile, if not exactly laugh. The gang is back together but they didn’t write any new hits – they just decided to play the old ones badly. It’s a shame as it’s truly fun to see Carrey and Daniels back in these roles and it’d be delightful if they were given something more to do.
As it is, Dumb and Dumber To proves that nostalgia can only carry you so far and it’s not reason enough to get the gang back together. The movie seems to know this as it juxtaposes stills from the original Dumb and Dumber over the credits sequence of this one, as if to say “Remember all those good times we had? Wasn’t that great?” I can’t say I’d be excited if these guys got back together in 20 years for Dumb and Dumb3r (with Carrey and Daniels well into their 70’s), but I would be morbidly curious. I like to think that Harry and Lloyd are two idiot-kings, cursed to endlessly walk the Earth (or traverse it by scooter or zamboni), forever missing out on a bus full of bikini babes or untold riches. For now let’s just be content with the stories in our heads and file Dumb and Dumber To along with the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the 4th Indiana Jones under Things That Didn’t Happen. Ignorance is bliss.