Fans of 1994’s endlessly quotable, toilet humor romp “Dumb and Dumber” should think twice before being swayed by the recent negative critical reception of its follow up sequel “Dumb and Dumber To,” a comedy that’s taken 20 years to move into production. After all, it’s not like the original 1994 film wasn’t critically panned during its initial release, only gaining cult and commercial status many years later. Recently, people seem to be mentally re-writing history when it comes to the critics’ reception of the writer/directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s farcical road-trip debut. Sure, the film is deemed a comedic masterpiece nowadays, but back then it was largely shunned and dismissed as garbage. So are they wrong about this one too?
I’ll hereby confess that the original “Dumb and Dumber,” despite its stupidity, is something of a lowbrow comedy classic in my eyes. I suspect it’s a film many of us have grown up on, which made the anticipation of this sequel all the more nerve-wracking. Would it be a worthy follow up, would it be bad, or, worst case scenario, would it be nearly as unendurable as that direct-to-DVD 2003 film that won’t be talked about here? I dreaded seeing the hilarious slapstick duo of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels embarrass themselves all these years later, especially reprising two of the most beloved goofball characters of all time.
The opening scene reveals that Lloyd’s (Jim Carrey) been comatose for nearly 20 years, all for no reason at all other then to pull-off the greatest practical joke of all time on his old buddy and pal, Harry (Jeff Daniels). After hearing news that Harry’s in need of an urgent kidney transplant, the pair set out on the road in attempt to reunite with his long-lost, 18 year old daughter in hopes that she’ll provide a spare. But very much like the original, plot is irrelevant, its only serving purpose being a vessel to highlight the primitive, gross-out antics of two naive, vulgar clowns.
With the omission of much falsely ridiculed, but still not all that spectacular, “Hall Pass” (2011), The Farrelly Brothers have been on a downward slope of unfunny swing-and-misses for the past decade. Former fans have denounced them as past their heyday, and I’ve been inclined to agree. I thought, whatever good was to come out of this reuniting was most likely to derive from the very talented and farcical match of Carrey and Daniels. While “Dumb and Dumber To” doesn’t even come close to matching the pinnacle of silliness and bathroom humor that was the original ‘94 film, it’s outright unbelievable how much it manages to provide gut-busting howls of laughter, at least it did at the screening I attended.
As expected, gifted funny men Carrey and Daniels elevate the rather one-noted material to satisfactory standards, turning what could have been an unbearable experience into a more pleasant and harmless one, a nostalgic trip down memory lane with two old friends. They’ve resurrected Lloyd and Harry through every seemingly insignificant detail and mannerism, almost as if they’ve never stopped studying these roles for the past decades.
Luckily, this follow up doesn’t give-in to the one, unforgivable sequel trend: Being a rehash that possesses no original gags of its own, referencing the original film rapid fire and without shame every chance it gets. There are references to the ‘94 film, but these nods feel welcomed, rather then unoriginal and lacking inspiration (Jeff Daniels lets his plumber’s crack show several times). Additionally, it helps that the film has quite a number of its own punch lines to juxtapose all the fan-serving hat-tips.
There are, however, a collection of indefensible detractors that take away from the film, a real shame because given some tweaking, “Dumb and Dumber To” had potential to be another classic. Visually, this is one of the ugliest films in recent memory. There’s a lifeless appearance to it that seems to mimic an SNL-skit, especially in the presence of the indoor sets. During the credits, clips of the ‘94 film are actually held up as comparison to clips of the sequel, making it all the more apparent. The original, shot on 35mm film, while not some type of visual tour de force, was a real road-trip movie that had a genuine aura of cross-country traveling in America. “Dumb and Dumber To” is displayed as cartoonish, occupying an almost self-parodying Mad-TV cheapness. It’s quite unfortunate that my biggest quibble against the film is the cinematography, something that could’ve been easily fixed if they’d hired a better photographer or just shot on actual film. There’s also a soundtrack contributed by Australian electronic music duo Empire of the Sun that’s tonally ill-suited, a mixture of Foster the People and MGMT that’ll have you craving tunes of the ‘94 soundtrack featuring artists such as The Primitives, Pete Droge, or Gigolo Aunts. The Sons track, “Too Much Of A Good Thing,” makes a pleasing appearance however.
Another, slightly more forgivable, concern is the mischaracterization of Carrey’s character, Lloyd. Lloyd is somewhat mean-spirited this go-around, a character trait that does not fall in line with the ‘94 film (Some folks will argue he behaved like that in the inferior Unrated edition released on Blu-ray). These guys have always been unapologetically crass, but underneath they’ve always remained sweet spirits. In fact, the whole film has a bit of a cruel edge to it, when something with more heart would’ve been preferred. There’s also a lack of a real threat of danger, something the ‘94 film played with relatively seriously.
Furthermore, the film arrives at borderline absurdity every so often. One instance has Lloyd and Harry bathing in a toxic sewer waste only later to be emitting a radiant green glow. The original, save one toenail trimming scene taken to extremes, was firmly planted in reality. It’s not that these situations aren’t funny, but a far more grounded approach would’ve been favored. Also, with the exception of Carry and Daniels, the rest of the cast members turn in pretty bland performances, only one being outright cringe worthy by actress Rachel Melvin who plays Daniel’s daughter. She’s no Mary Samsonite. It’s really inconsequential since the film truly belongs to Carrey and Daniels, and everyone else is practically a stand-in.
“Dumb and Dumber To” offers slap-stick galore throughout its entire runtime. It falls under the category of guilty pleasures such as “Dude Where’s My Car,” “Harold and Kumar,” and “Deuce Bigalow,” and I feel I’m being awfully generous towards this film, but I had a fun time with it. It by no means fits the definition of a “good” film, but it managed to keep a smile on my face throughout, on multiple occasions having the audiences and myself bursting into uncontrollable laughter. With that said, while it is a film I like, I wish I could say I like it a lot, but it’s Lloyd’s trademark zinger so I’m sure he’ll just say it anyway.
Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.