From the days of vaudeville to gross-out gags of today humor is constantly changing. Because of this, what works for one audience for one generation may not work for another. Then again, there are those comedies that are everlasting; the ones that are revered well beyond their shelf life. Age is also a factor. While personal views on films can grow and change over the years, a part of you will still enjoy a lowbrow comedy, especially if it is one you saw in your teenage years.
I was thirteen when Jim Carrey became red hot. In 1994, he starred in three consecutive hits. The success of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber would vault him up the box-office totem pole, where he would become a $20 million a film star. Twenty years later though, he’s just looking for a paycheck. What better way than to make a sequel to one of his biggest comedies. Having enjoyed Dumb and Dumber when it became a hit on home video, watching it numerous times and quoting it with my best friend, I accepted it for what it was and will always be: a dumb comedy.
Peter and Bobby Farrelly were two of the biggest comedy directors of the ’90s. Biggest is a loose term in the sense that the two brothers only had two hits in a decade that made flannel shirts fashionable. In the aughts they could not reach that same level of comedy greatness, seemingly going through a revolving door of comic leads that included the likes of Jack Black (Shallow Hal), Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon as conjoined twins (Stuck on You), and Jimmy Fallon (Fever Pitch) among others. The brothers have been in a terrible slump and instead of trying something new, they looked to capture the spark that catapulted them into the Hollywood limelight with a sequel to Dumb and Dumber.
But the thought of a sequel twenty years later reeks of desperation. The original fan base is now twenty years older and presumably wiser. Dumb and Dumber To is a cash grab pure and simple. Sure, the stars may tell the press how much fun they had making the sequel, but they are the only ones in on the joke. Laughing all the way to the bank.
Set twenty years after the first film, the sequel does its best to replicate the formula where we have Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) on another cross country mission with another set of misadventures along the way. The problem – several problems, really – is that it tries too hard to be edgy for PG-13 and not edgy enough for R. It is also awash in trying to be a constant reminder of the original, even going as far to include former characters like Billy, the blind neighbor boy that Harry and Lloyd previously sold a dead bird to.
Instead of racing to return a briefcase to someone named “Samsonite,” the two bumbling friends must head to a technology conference in El Paso so Harry can reconnect with his biological daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), in hopes she will donate him a kidney. Much like the first, there is a criminal subplot that wants to silence Harry and Lloyd and it of course doesn’t go as planned. Bad jokes are a plenty but even attempts of actual humor are shortsighted or overstay their welcome to the point of not being funny anymore. A road trip comedy should be ripe with comic mishaps, but in Dumb and Dumber To the Farrellys can’t separate the episodic nature to the much larger plot.
The saving grace should be seeing Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey in two of their signature roles (if you want to call them that). However, the novelty wears off quickly. Daniels is easily the better of the two; Harry Dunne has a silly stupidity about him that serves his character well. Carrey’s performance as Lloyd Christmas is the tougher sell, mainly because his characterization is so bizarre. In Dumb and Dumber it was all in good fun seeing him sabotaging Harry’s date with Mary Swanson with a bunch of laxatives, but the verbal insults he levies in the sequel are crude, not dumb.
Dumb and Dumber To is one of those comedies where fans who originally demanded a sequel twenty years ago got exactly what they wanted. To expect anything differently from such inanity is to delude yourself. The comedy is every bit as a mess as the original, but Dumb and Dumber was a novelty. A running gag where the audience is in on the joke except the main characters. They just don’t know any better. Twenty years later, however, no body is laughing, and if they are it’s out of nostalgia not general appreciation.
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writer: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farelly, Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin, and Mike Cerrone
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden, Kathleen Turner, Rachel Melvin, Rob Riggle
Running Time: 110 minutes
Rating: R (for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references)