When word came down that a proper sequel (let’s all try to forget that 2004 disaster) to the 1994 smash hit comedy Dumb and Dumber was being made the world let out a collective sigh. Not exactly the reaction stars Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels and directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly were likely expecting. But that didn’t stop them from forging forward and whether or not anyone really wanted another adventure with Harry and Lloyd, we were getting it.
The key to making any sequel work is getting all the key creative talents behind the original back in the saddle, but when it takes two decades to make that happen the question is no longer whether it will be good or not (although that is still a factor of course), but if anyone will care. With recent late-to-the-party sequels like 300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Scream 4 all performing poorly despite delivering everything fans asked for, does Dumb and Dumber To even stand a chance?
Picking up 20 years after best friends Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) traveled to Aspen in search of true love, we discover that Harry needs a kidney transplant and the only person capable of giving him one is his newly discovered estranged daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin). After getting Lloyd out of the local convalescent home where he had been in a catatonic state for the past two decades due to being rejected by the love of his life, the two of them set out to visit Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), Penny’s mom and Harry’s former flame, in hopes of locating Penny. Soon the two of them are on a road trip across the country once again with Harry in search of a new kidney and Lloyd still in search of true love, this time with Harry’s 22 year old daughter.
There were a lot of factors working in the original Dumb and Dumber film’s favor, the most of which was Jim Carrey who was just coming off the one two punch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. Another factor were directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly whose special brand of humor was still fresh and hadn’t been recycled to the brink of exhaustion yet (There’s Something About Mary would later be the peak of their popularity). Mixing gross out humor and sight gags with often lovingly ignorant, hateful and insensitive pokes and jabs at everyone and everything ranging from the handicapped to the overweight, it’s safe to say they were at least partially responsible for pushing the boundaries for what was acceptable in our comedies.
The final factor which was likely overshadowed at the time due to Carrey’s rising fame and the beginning of the Farrelly brothers reign of comedy is Jeff Daniels. While it is more than apparent that everyone else was in their element with the material they were working with, Daniels was working way out of his normal comfort zone and turned in a performance that in many ways helped him steal the show right out from under Carrey. Combined you have what many would call lightning in a bottle which was harnessed to create one of the funniest comedies of all time. To say the sequel had a lot to live up to is a slight understatement which is not even taking into consideration over twenty years worth of anticipation.
Let’s get some of the more obvious questions out of the way first shall we? First of all, is it as good as the original? No, not really. Is it at least funny though? Yeah, it has its moments but once again it just isn’t as funny as the original. Why isn’t it as funny though? Well, that is the million dollar question isn’t it and one that isn’t so easily answered. While Harry and Lloyd are basically up to the same blissfully childlike antics as they were in the original film, somehow either due to the writing or just that this style of comedy isn’t made anymore, Dumb and Dumber To is missing that special spark that made the original an instant classic.
That’s not to say the sequel is without merit though. There’s a fine line any sequel rides when it comes to deciding how close to stay with the original formula and how far to stray into new territory. Stay too similar and there is the risk of being labeled as lazy and stray too far and there is the risk of alienating fans who wanted nothing but more of the same. A good sequel needs to check both those boxes which doesn’t even account for how said sequel that is twenty years late needs to justify even being made.
With that said, Dumb and Dumber To surprisingly straddles that line fairly well. While it can stray too far into recycled material territory every now and then it has enough tricks up its sleeves to provide even die hard fans with some unexpected and often hilarious situations. Case in point is when Lloyd and Harry come across their old Mutt Cuts truck they sold in the original film. At first it seems like the writers are trying a bit too hard to remind viewers of the original but quickly reveals itself to be a rather inspired bit of comedy that expertly plays on our expectations.
Speaking of expectations, while the situations may be slightly different, the way Harry and Lloyd approach them is just as embarrassingly juvenile and ignorant as they ever were which if you were a fan of the original is a good thing. Callbacks such as the blind kid they sold the dead bird to and using their shared infidelities with a younger Fraida Felcher as the main plot point help give fans something to identify with without hitting them over the head with recycled material. But even then some of the sequel’s best moments come out of some very familiar feeling encounters.
Harry and Lloyd are usually at their most hysterical when interacting with other, smarter, people. One of the best sequences in the first film is when the hitman hired to kill them joins them as a hitchhiker. Their scenes together quickly became legend, “Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?”, and in the sequel a very familiar set of circumstances places them in mortal danger again with another hired killer with similarly hysterical results. Is it a bit too close to the original? Yeah, but you can’t argue with the resulting comedic gold it mines.
Which brings us to the real reason this film works at all and that is despite how much older you are now compared to twenty years ago, this feels like the only sequel that they could have ever made and done the original justice. It may take a few minutes to slip back into the proper mentality needed to shut your brain off and enjoy the lunacy of it all, but when you reach that mental sweet spot the film becomes this sort of nirvana for stupidity.
Just like the original film, the characters may be dumb and the story may be a bit too simple, but beneath its exceedingly dumb exterior lies a really smart comedy whose jabs at just about everything (even poor Stephen Hawking gets lampooned here) will have most howling in laughter one minute and then feeling ashamed that they laughed the next. That is not easy comedy nor is it highbrow comedy, but it certainly is dumb smart comedy at its most hysterical.
Now, this is not a perfect film and while many of its jokes stick the landing there are enough standouts that will fill the air with crickets as well. Just about everything with Penny is fairly bad. It’s difficult to know who to blame, the writing or Rachel Melvin’s performance, but it just doesn’t work the way the directors were probably hoping for. She is supposed to be the female version of Harry and it just comes off as really pedestrian. Other one shot jokes like the zamboni and the guys taking a shower by a nuclear plant then radiating a green glow are some gags that just didn’t register either.
One of the most notably failures this time around are Lloyd’s daydreams which in the original were just the perfect mixture of funny and over the top. In possibly the one moment where the sequel tries to mimic the original too closely, these daydream scenes feel boring and lazy. Lastly and quite possibly the biggest surprise is just how tame the gross out humor is. Blame it on the Farrelly brothers pushing the envelope so far with their other films or that film and television in general is just that much more risque than it used to be, but the fact of the matter is that most of the “adult” humor in Dumb and Dumber To fails to reach that extreme level it so wants to reach.
The real surprise here though is that even with those faults and sometimes being a bit too derivative of the original film (and featuring a brand of comedy that faded from popularity over a decade ago), the film works much better than it probably should. Sure, there aren’t any classic scenes like the snowball fight or Harry letting go on Mary’s broken toilet, but what is here is a more than passable comedy and quite frankly one of the best films Jim Carrey has been in for a very long time. Dumb and Dumber To will never achieve the same status as the original, but fans looking for more dumb adventures with Harry and Lloyd should be pleased.
Let’s be honest here, the minute you heard that a sequel to Dumb and Dumber was being made you knew instantly whether or not if you were going to see it, regardless of any bad or good reviews. But that won’t stop me from putting out a recommendation anyway, mostly in hopes of getting anyone on the fence about seeing it that extra push they need. Just don’t go in expecting too much from it and any fans of the original will have a dumb good time with this dumb sequel.