A film review by Craig J. Koban November 21, 2014 

DUMB AND DUMBER TO jj
½   

2014, PG-13, 110 mins.

 

Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas  /  Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne  /  Rachel Melvin as Penny  /  Kathleen Turner as Fraida  /  Brady Bluhm as Billy  /  Laurie Holden as Adele

Directed by The Farrelly Brothers  /  Written by The Farrelly Brothers, Bennett Yellin, Sean Anders, John Morris, and Mike Cerrone

DUMB AND DUMBER TO (no, that’s not a typo) is, to be fair, a spectacularly, predictably, and aggressively dumb movie.  

How could it not be?  It’s a film that celebrates nincompoopery, much like its 1994 predecessor DUMB AND DUMBER, the Farrelly Brothers’ first film that showcased the highly unlikely – but enjoyable – pairing of the then rocketing to superstardom Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.  Now comes the long awaited – two decades in the making! – sequel with the two leads back, albeit in somewhat distractingly older form (Carrey is 52 and Daniels is 59).  Yet, Carrey and Daniels – despite their advancing years – don’t seem to have missed a beat; you just have to admire how these stars have fearlessly thrown themselves back into roles of gross stupidity.  If only there wasn’t more in the film built around their presence to enjoy. 

I’m not going to be one of those pompous and high-minded critics that’s going to dismiss the first DUMB AND DUMBER.  Despite the oftentimes mean-spiritedness of its comedy, the Farrellys' rookie directorial effort had a sort of offbeat, goofball charm in showing two endlessly moronic doofuses trekking across America on a wild series of misadventures that played off of their idiocy.  The characters of Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) were endearingly pitiful, much like, say, The Three Stooges: they simply couldn’t help themselves for being morons.  DUMB AND DUMBER TO seems hungry to continue the journey of the wacky misfortunes of its two lovable losers, and even when the film does score many hearty and well-earned laughs, there are infinitely more jokes and pratfalls that fall resoundingly flat and filled the cinema that I was in with silence.  It’s somewhat sad that a script written by six – count ‘em..six – screenwriters (including the Farrellys) could not find a refreshingly new angle to explore for these characters.  Too much (or should I say to much) of DUMBER AND DUMBER TO seems to be lazily rehashing the plot of the first film, which shows a level of creative laziness on all fronts. 

 

 

The film opens on a downright creepy moment that thinks it’s funny, during which time we discover what has happened to both Harry and Lloyd for the past two decades.  It seems that Lloyd has been in the Baldy View Mental Hospital, where he was committed after his failed romance with Mary Swanson from the first film.  Harry, being a steadfast and loyal pal, has shown up everyday to care for his borderline comatose Lloyd, even going as far as to change his catheter bags and excrement filled adult diapers.  Astoundingly, Lloyd reveals to Harry that he was faking his medical condition for twenty years as part of an incredulously orchestrated gag.  Harry, in a moment of pure imbecilic behavior, thinks it’s the coolest prank of all-time. 

Things are not all rosy for these two pals after they’re reunited.  Harry has revealed to his buddy that he requires a kidney transplant to stay alive, but has no close family relatives that can provide him with a proper matching organ.  After Harry learns (in a fairly funny scene) that his mom and dad actually adopted him (which should have been a dead giveaway when he was a child, seeing as his mom and dad are Korean), he further discovers that he actually had a child with an old fling, Fraida Feltcher (Kathleen Turner, an awfully good sport here), but the daughter was given up for adoption twenty years ago.  The daughter, now going by the name of Penny Pinchelow (Rachel Melvin), is about to give a speech at a big science convention for her adopted father, which leaves Harry and Lloyd scrambling to find a car (they settle on a Hearse…and later a Zamboni…don’t ask) and drive across America to seek Penny out and convince her to help her biological father. 

As stated, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels look awfully…old…in this film…but they nonetheless still manage to capture that clueless boyish charm that made their characters so peculiarly winning in the first film.  Carrey in particular seems to have not emotionally aged a day in his ability to play up to the film’s high quotient of infantile hijinks, and Daniels – a respectable dramatic actor when compelled to be – also seems to take great relish at harnessing Harry’s zany and capricious energy.  There is a certain giddy thrill to be had in witnessing two performers approaching senior citizenship doing just about anything to garner a laugh, which usually involves making beyond-dim-witted declarations, using bodily functions as a form of social revenge, or getting vital parts of their anatomy bashed.  I’m still left wondering, days after the screening, if a scene involving  – ahem! – a snot bubble was the product of CGI or Carrey’s ample gross-out natural talents. 

There are certainly hysterical bits sprinkled throughout this film, like, for example, the duo’s horrendously awful mispronunciation of words (or complete misuse of colloquial phrases) to some well timed sight gags, the most amusing of which occurring when Harry and Lloyd experience temporary deafness while on the road after a fireworks explosion goes off in their car.  There’s a rousing fantasy sequence – a callback to a similar one in the first film – where Lloyd imagines himself as a super hero that defends Penny (whom he’s lusting after) from a squad of ninjas.  Probably the most outlandishly inspired scene involves Billy...yes, the blind wheelchair-bound kid that Lloyd sold a dead, decapitated parakeet to for some quick cash in the first film.  Seeing as Lloyd and Harry need to go on the road and can't have any distractions, Lloyd left Harry’s cat (named Butthole) with Billy to look after (without his consent), but Billy’s apartment is filled with his cherished bird collection.  The anticipation of the outcome is arguably funnier than the outcome itself.

Still, too much of DUMB AND DUMBER TO seems to revel in desperation.  Some of the jokes seem a bit more spiteful this go-around, including some toxically hateful speech from Lloyd directed at Mexicans, Asians, Canadians (why I outta…), and homosexuals (granted, Lloyd is so thick-skulled that he can be forgiven for his silly ignorance).  The film is also way, way too long considering the material; at nearly two hours, DUMB AND DUMBER TO inspires a bit too much fidgety watch checking for its own good.  There’s also no denying that this sequel seems to be following the narrative roadmap of his antecedent (beyond referencing famous scenes from the first film, there’s even some regurgitation of some of its best gags).  There’s also something to be said about the essence of the Farrelly Brothers’ brand of comedy; their work in DUMB AND DUMBER and THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY felt like scandalous, genre busting originals for their day.  Now, the filmmaking duo appears to be riffing on themselves instead of being bold trendsetters again.

I’m not going to lie.  I laughed a lot in DUMB AND DUMBER TO…and perhaps I’m ashamed to admit how much.  Films like this seem to defy intellectual criticism.  Fans of the original film will, no doubt, eat this sequel up, whereas everyone else might be left wondering what the hell they got themselves involved in.  I like the Harry and Lloyd characters.  I like their interplay.  I like Carrey and Daniels going for broke with a reckless abandon in these roles.  I guess that the resulting mixed-bagged film as a whole – which traverses from hearty guffaws to lame mediocrity at the drop of a dime –  is not really worthy of our collective twenty-year wait for it.   

Alas, DUMB AND DUMBER TO had one exemplarily timed joke that I found hilarious.  Early in the film Harry is going through twenty years of unopened mail.  He comes across one envelope, opens it, and matter-of-factly states, “Oh, look.  An acceptance letter from Arizona State.”  He then casually throws it away.  

Now that's pricelessly funny.  Too bad the rest of the film didn't consistently follow suit. 

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