We live in a cinematic era that too often resorts to low-risk cash grabs and “sure things” instead of taking risks on original ideas and ingenuity. It is a time of endless sequelling, limitless novel-to-screen adaptations, and splitting the last book into two movies. We’re now starting to see old franchises (or even stand-alone movies) revived years later in an attempt to turn nostalgia into a quick buck.
The once-formidable Farrelly Brothers have resorted to the same tactic in bringing us a Dumb And Dumber sequel 20 years after the original made the directing team famous. I’m not exactly sure who asked for this movie to be made, but I suspect that even they will be disappointed by the output. Dumb And Dumber To (it physically pains me spell too [or is it 2?] that way) is an over-long, mostly unfunny return for characters who hit their comedic peak at the beginning of the Clinton administration.
Picking up two decades after the end of their original adventures, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) embark on yet another cross-country journey, this time to find and meet Harry’s potential long-lost daughter who could be the only match for a much-needed kidney donation. In true Dumb and Dumber fashion, the pair encounter dozens of mishaps along the way, all the while finding themselves in the middle of a dangerous situation which imperils their lives on numerous occasions.
The plot is very much a paint-by-numbers recreation of the original, with minute differences sprinkled in. The briefcase full of money is replaced with a mysterious scientific invention that portends to be worth a billion dollars. The two bumbling mobsters are mirrored by a scientist’s unhappy wife and her hired muscle. The parallels go on and on, as several running jokes and cameo appearances from the first Dumb And Dumber are sprinkled in throughout to extract nostalgic laughs when the new jokes fail to hit home.
In short, this is the same problem that befell The Hangover Part II, but at least that movie was a reasonably quick turnaround from the first one. If you’re a true Dumb and Dumber fan who has been waiting for this movie for 20 years, you should expect slightly more than a less funny, extremely derivative rehash of the original. For my money, I’d rather just watch the first one and be content with the genre-defining style it brought to the forefront. Almost every “naughty” comedy has the same types of jokes these days, so the Farrellys needed to go above and beyond the status quo if they wanted to leave their mark here. That being said, the humor involved in Dumb and Dumber To borders on insensitive and offensive more than occasionally, as age, disability, sexuality, and body image are all played off for laughs on several occasions, to name a few. Nervous laughter in a subpar comedy is one thing, but being legitimately put off by certain jokes is another thing entirely.
As for the performances, there’s something very unsettling about seeing these characters who have been frozen in time for two decades suddenly brought back to life. Jeff Daniels is just a touch under 60, and Jim Carrey is over 50 himself, so there’s almost a wax museum-esque quality to the way they look. Jim Carrey’s hairstyle and wide-eyed grins look particularly frightening throughout, although I will say that Daniels pulls off the look without too much trouble. I won’t accuse Carrey and Daniels of phoning in their performances, because they do their best to elicit what laughs they can from a very stale screenplay. Jeff Daniels in particular is responsible for the jokes which brought the biggest laughs for me, and he handles the role effectively, all things considered. That being said, I suspect it will be difficult for fans of Daniels to view him in the same light the next time they watch The Newsroom and be reminded of how many times they saw his bare bottom in this movie (I counted at least 6 or 7 times). And for Jim Carrey, his shtick was wearing thin ten years ago, so I add this to the increasing list of films that make me yearn for The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine glory days. Awkward supporting performances from Rob Riggle and Kathleen Turner add to the uncomfortable feeling that pervaded the entirety of the film.
I went in to Dumb and Dumber To, relatively optimistic, thinking that there’s no way they would have bothered to remake a comedy classic if it wasn’t going to be done well. After all, they hired Sean Anders, who has penned several funny films, to write the screenplay. But right from the get-go, my optimism went to the wayside once the minutes ticked by with nary a hearty laugh. I did have a few good laughs, but for a 110-minute-long comedy with no attempted elements of drama or emotion, being able to count the number of successful jokes on one hand makes for a long night at the theater.
In a year where many of the awards favorites have been expertly mixing sharp drama with biting black comedy, this makes Dumb and Dumber To seem even more like a buffoonish wasted attempt in restoring two iconic characters to their former glory. There was a time when the Farrelly Brothers were on top of the comedy world, but the days of Shallow Hal and There’s Something About Mary seem further and further away with each disappointing effort the duo puts forward. Hopefully we’ve seen the last misadventures of Lloyd and Harry, because I’m not sure that I could bear to watch another minute of their relationship.
This article was originally published on Ryan’s blog.