There was a slightly sad thought that the prospect of seeing Dumb and Dumber To triggered in my mind this week. As the opening title appeared, I was trying to remember the last time I’d seen a Jim Carrey film in the cinema. He was such a major star in the nineties; the first actor who I used to seek out films just because he was in them. While I saw him take smaller roles in 3 (mediocre) movies last year, the actual last big screen Jim Carrey movie for me was the awful Fun with Dick and Jane, nine whole years ago. Ironically, at this stage the previously sequel-shy Carrey probably needs this long-in-development movie more than Jeff Daniels does. Daniels, who received less than 1% of Carrey’s salary in 1994, has had successful, steady work since and recently won an Emmy for leading prestigious HBO show The Newsroom.
The good news is that it isn’t just terribly embarrassing to see the pair channelling the buffoons they first played 20 years ago. They’re both still recognizably the same characters, and are clearly trying hard to get as much humour as they can from the material. To explain away where they’ve been for so long, we begin by learning that Lloyd has spent the last 2 decades institutionalized in a catatonic state. Harry visits him every week but now has to stop as he’s recently been told he needs a life-saving kidney transplant. After stating this Lloyd reveals he’s been faking the whole thing as an elaborate prank, the absurdity of which even Harry seems aware of (“It’s robbed you of your best years!”). Really it’s just an excuse to have them take off where we last left them.
There’s rarely any real reason for comedies to have sequels, and the recent examples of The Hangover and Horrible Bosses demonstrate that making them can sometimes even tarnish any goodwill folks have toward the original. Dumb & Dumber To does have something going for it in that respect however, being the time gap. Its story is extremely similar to the first – the witless pair embarking on a road trip to find someone (Harry’s long-lost daughter in this case) and becoming cluelessly embroiled in a more sinister plot along the way. However it doesn’t feel like it’s just shamelessly repeating the beats, the distance assists it, a lot of the jokes are expanded upon (the blind kid now has a collection of rare birds) and one of the biggest laughs comes from a direct call-back. There are a few lazier choices too – music cues are repeated, there’s an unnecessary fantasy sequence from Lloyd, but a lack of originality isn’t the trouble with Dumb & Dumber To.
The plot is really of little importance in a movie like this, one that’s trying to just make you laugh as much as possible. To be fair, returning directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly keep the jokes coming thick and fast throughout, unfortunately for them, it’s the hit rate that’s lacking. The Farrelly Brothers’ movies tend to be known for two things; outrageous “gross-out” humour alongside moments of genuine sweetness. These supposed strengths are not what highlight Dumb and Dumber To though, in fact the former are among the worst parts. There’s nothing too extreme in the “gross-out” stakes but nothing particularly funny either. There are a couple of seriously awful bits (one involves a horny grandmother, the other free beer) and one scene when a dog slobbers on Lloyd’s face had me looking away. There is, naturally, an extended flatulence-related sequence too.
On the other hand, there are a number of moments of genuine hilarity to be found, and it’s mainly more traditional visual gags that the Farrellys excel at here. One moment in particular involving hearing loss is possibly the most I’ve laughed at any movie this year. There’s also a sequence about an address that leads to a priceless reveal. Of the decent new supporting cast, Rachel Melvin as Harry’s long-lost daughter deserves a special mention for gamely conveying the central pair’s stupidity too, exemplified in her dialogue exchanges with Lloyd.
I saw Dumb & Dumber To at the end of a week where the two main movie news stories were both heavily playing into fans’ nostalgia; the new Jurassic World and Star Wars trailers. This is very much doing the same thing, but is there really that much affection for Dumb and Dumber? There’s certainly a fair amount (I once had a friend tell me it was his all-time favourite movie) and the best I can say is that it’s unlikely to really disappoint anyone who’s a huge fan of the original. At the same time, for a movie filled to the brim with jokes, the misses far outweigh the hits.