Better late than never? Maybe not this time.
Why is Dumb and Dumber To disappointing?… Is it because the new movie has six writers instead of three like the original? Is it because the 90’s style of humor just isn’t funny anymore? Or is it that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels just don’t carry the same onscreen charm they did twenty years ago? None of the above (well, maybe the first one). The best aspect of Dumb and Dumber To, the highly anticipated (and worry-inducing) sequel to the Farrelly brothers’ classic side-splitting 1994 comedy, is seeing the Carrey-Daniels duo back on screen together. The worst aspect is that Peter and Bob Farrelly lost sight of their own character creations, making them more mean-spirited now rather than the lovable dimwits they were before. Dumb and Dumber To isn’t without its funny moments, and there are a few nuggets, but twenty years should have yielded a more loyal and clever return to the world of Harry and Lloyd.
Dumb and Dumber To picks up twenty years after the conclusion of the original, at which time Lloyd is in a mental institution, mute and bearded, buried in grief after losing Mary Swanson. Harry, meanwhile, living in the same apartment but now with a meth brewer as a roommate (I’m sorry, is that a spoiler? Don’t worry, it wasn’t funny in the movie either), has been visiting Lloyd every week for the past twenty years. So a few jokes ensue, complete with more than a few missed comedic opportunities, and Harry and Lloyd are back on the road together again, this time in an attempt to track down Harry’s long lost daughter, who was conceived with and put up for adoption without Harry knowing by Fraida Felcher (a very game Kathleen Turner).
Like the first Dumb and Dumber, Harry and Lloyd meet a handful of interesting characters along the way and stumble into a plot more sinister and dangerous than they’re cognisant of. But the biggest difference between the comedy from the first film and in this one is the mean-spirited nature of it. In Dumb and Dumber To, Lloyd laughs at the stereotyped accent of different ethnicities and never apologizes after being mean to people. In one particular scene, both Harry and Lloyd purposefully become loud-mouthed obnoxious idiots because they just don’t care about the effect they have on those around them. Sure, they may just misinterpret the situation, but when they did despicable things in the first movie, there was always a brief moment when you learned that they felt bad, apologetic, or were at least aware:
1) “The blind kid!?” “Yeah!…(serious)…yeah.”
2) “You okay, man? It was just a goof!”
3) “You know what I’m sick and tired of, Harry? I’m sick and tired of having to eke my way through life. I’m sick and tired of bein’ a nobody. (pause) But most of all…I’m sick and tired of havin’ nobody.”
4) “Oh! Well, pardon me, Mr. PERFECT! I guess I forgot that you never, ever make a mistake!”
5) They try not to give the highway patrol officer the bottle full of Lloyd’s…ya know…
There are no apologies in Dumb and Dumber To. Maybe one that I can’t remember. Much of the time the humor is completely lost because we can’t sympathize with these two innocent manchildren. In 1994’s Dumb and Dumber, they always mean well and always disrupt others accidentally. It’s charming. We may root for them in the new film, but only because of what we know of them from before, not because of what their intentions are now.
That being said, the gags come at a mile a minute as if the Farrelly brothers opened a drawer full of discarded jokes and gross-out scenarios and decided that this was their chance to include all the rejected ideas into a movie bound to make some sweet dough. Not enough credit is given to the talents of Carrey and Daniels, who were previously able to take simple conversations and turn it into comedic gold. Here, the gags are forced upon them. The funniest moments come when the film doesn’t seem to be trying. They come out of the woodwork when Carrey and Daniels are at ease with their characters, not pushing through a script chalk full of loud noises and pratfalls. It’s hard to watch some scenes where you can tell Carrey and Daniels sense the unfunniness of the material. The best written character is actually Harry’s daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), who captures the same innocent obliviousness her father mastered before her time.
But all of Dumb and Dumber To isn’t completely worthless. Again, it’s a treat to see Jim Carrey return to manic form. It’s been too long since Mr. Rubber Face has had a chance to really spread his comedic wings, and he’s almost completely unleashed here. And as for Daniels, god bless him. After a string of serious roles in movies and television, it’s great to see Harry Dunne again. It’s just a shame the script had to outpace the performances, leaving no time for subtleties or organic character development. The Farrelly’s may think that today’s audiences desire a more frantic, over-the-top comedic style, but that’s just not true. Maybe time will be kind to Dumb and Dumber To. After all, the first one didn’t garner it’s massive popularity until after its initial run in theaters (a pretty good one, actually) and widespread critical rejection. Just see Death to Smoochy and MacGruber and Hot Rod as examples. The humor in 1994’s Dumb and Dumber worked, and if it ain’t broke and is still quoted so damn often twenty years later, definitely don’t try to fix it.
Dumb and Dumber To is in theaters today, November 14th.