You can tell the effort involved in a film like Dumb and Dumber To early on, when Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey give the set up for what should be an interesting return to a film that made Carrey’s career in the summer of 1994. With Ace Ventura and The Mask combining with Dumb and Dumber to turn Carrey into the biggest star in comedy in the span of six months, it’s interesting that a sequel took 20 years to come out. Carrey has been sequel averse for his entire career, with only Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls marking his sole appearance in a sequel to a film he already starred in to this point.
Dumb and Dumber is a film that also was never brilliant but funny enough that it felt more significant in retrospect. It’s one of those insanely flawed films that we tend to overrate. The lack of a sequel for so many years always made it feel bigger than it really was, as well. It was good enough that it didn’t need one, or so it felt, unlike any other number of films that feel diminished because of inferior sequels. Thus the sequel to Dumb and Dumber is an interesting call on any number of levels; one expects that everyone involved wouldn’t come back merely to recapture old glories, cash larger checks and enjoy one more romp at the top of the box office for a week or two. I mean there has to be something profound they want to say because they all reunited for this film, right?
Wrong in every way possible, unfortunately, as Dumb and Dumber To winds up as an even worse misfire than the prequel to Dumb and Dumber would up being.
The premise is simple. Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) reunite to track down Harry’s daughter. He had a fling with a woman who apparently really enjoyed sex (Kathleen Turner in the present, rumored to be Jennifer Lawrence in flashbacks) and now his daughter is down in El Paso, Texas, for a convention. Her adopted family has sent her to accept an award but she forgot something of value at home. Thus the two idiots take a road trip from the Northeast to the south, accompanied by an employee (Rob Riggle) of Harry’s adopted daughter, as we get nearly two hours of shenanigans from the two as they make their way south.
The film itself it awful on any number of levels, mainly because the gags haven’t evolved in the two decades since everyone was united for this film. Carrey and Daniels have a zeal, able to embrace characters (and comedy) in a way neither have in some time, but the problem is that the film feels like it’s too little too late. It’s a combination of any number of factors, but mainly because this is a directorial and writing nightmare on every level.
The Farrely brothers looked to be the newest directorial kings of comedy as they had a three film run from 1994-6 with Dumb and Dumber followed by both Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary. But, much like Judd Apatow, the comedy gods are fickle and the career of the Farrellys hasn’t been as fruitful as their early work. This feels like an attempt at catching lightning in a bottle twice, as Daniels and Carrey still have tremendous comedic chemistry, but there’s nothing new for either of them in this film. The gags they’re given are mainly reprising similar ones from the first film and they’re easy to spot before they arrive. I would call this lazy film-making but there’s a genuine, bonafide effort here to turn this into something special.
And that’s mainly from Carrey and Daniels, who are really trying hard. The material they’re given with is garbage and no matter how hard they try they can’t make it funny. It’s sadder to see these two actors try to recapture the glory of two decades ago alongside the directors. And that’s exactly what this film is best described as: an attempt.
The film mainly copies the first in every way possible but the problem is that the same jokes, repeated, are very rarely funny. And that’s the problem: this is a film that’s basically saying “Hey remember that film we made 20 years ago? Watch it again!” but without doing anything necessary to make it memorable. You can do a throwback to many things in the comedy genre, most notably screwball, but when you’re going for a film that relies on the sort of crude antics this one does it pays to at least try something beyond variants of the same gags you used 20 years ago. Part of this brand of comedy is evolution; you can’t rely on the same cheap gags for two decades and expect it to work again.
The sad thing is that there is so much that could’ve been done with these characters, and the story, that this feels like significantly more of a failure because of it. In 20 years there could’ve been significantly more to be said about these two characters but instead we’re given the same fart gags from 20 years ago. One has to feel sorry for Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels after a while; they seem to genuinely think this is still funny and that repeating the same gags that are well past their expiration date is high comedy. While there are a pair of gags that are somewhat funny, a callback to the original in particular, this is a film trying to be funny so hard it’s almost painful to watch.
If you like this film you should probably rethink your choices in life.
Director: Bobby and Peter Farrelly Writer: The Farrelys, Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennet Yellin, Mike Cerrone Notable Cast: Kathleen Turner, Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Steve Tom, Laurie Holden, Rob Riggle, Rachel Melvin, Brady Bluhm, Rachel Melvin