Dumb and Dumber To (dir. Peter and Bobby Farrelly)

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

In the 20 years since the original “Dumb and Dumber” came out, a lot has changed.  The Farrelly brothers, for whom “Dumb and Dumber” was their first film, have had a long career of highs (“There’s Something About Mary”, “Kingpin”) and lows (“The Three Stooges”).  Jim Carrey, who once commanded $20 million a film and whose star power guaranteed a film to cross $100 million at the domestic box office, has seen his star power significantly diminished as comedy trends have gone from slapstick, to gross-out, to the age of Judd Apatow we seem to still be in now.  Also, I saw the original film when I was 10 or 11 years old.  That is perhaps the perfect age to see “Dumb and Dumber”.  It is the age in which all of the jokes will hit their target with the appropriate amount of hilarity.  Perhaps it also works well for the old.  My grandfather, who would die a year after the film came out, found it hilarious.  I saw the sequel in a theater where the only other patrons were an old man and an old woman, and the old man laughed heartily at a fart joke and an arm pit joke.  Perhaps it’s only us in the middle for whom these films may not hit quite as well.

A sequel to “Dumb and Dumber” probably should have happened in the late 90s, but back then Carrey was pretty anti-sequel (with the notable exception of “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”) and The Farrellys were a critical and sometimes commercial role.  Now, when we’re getting long-awaited sequels we never thought we would (like the very disappointing “Anchorman 2”), “Dumb and Dumber To” is given to us.  Oh sure, there was the non-canon, much hated prequel “When Harry Met Lloyd”, which was originally supposed to be written by “South Park’s” Trey Parker & Matt Stone before they dropped out (the new film features a South Park street sign at the end, perhaps as a tip of the hat to them), but that doesn’t fit the bill the way an official sequel with the writers, directors, and stars back in the saddle again.  Of course, I’m now 31 years old, and it’s possible this humor won’t register with me as strongly as it did 20 years ago.  The recent new episodes of “Beavis & Butt-Head” may have hit me the right way, but I was a much bigger fan of those animated idiots than I have been of “Dumb and Dumber” over the years.

“Dumb and Dumber To” at least doesn’t fall into the “Austin Powers” trap of merely doing new versions of the same old jokes for every gag.  Yes, the sequel does repeat some gags for nostalgia purposes, but it largely blazes its own trail, which results in a film that seems a bit cruder than the original sometimes, though other times it merely reaches for easy and lazy jokes about mispronunciation.  If there’s one major complaint about the film, it’s that it never reaches for an original joke when an easy joke anyone could have written is right there.  The film isn’t lazy, exactly, but it doesn’t try as hard as it could, either.  I know the film is supposed to be dumb (it’s in the title), but can’t you be dumb in a clever fashion sometimes?  The brief reprisal of the dog van sort of fits in to that category.

The plot, as if it matters, involves Lloyd (Jim Carrey) faking catatonia in a mental hospital for twenty years until Harry (Jeff Daniels) tells him he can’t visit anymore because he’s having medical issues with his kidney.  Needing to find a kidney donor, preferably a blood relative, Harry goes to his parents, who are Asian, and is told he is adopted, so no luck there.  He does find an old postcard mailed to him (a Rocky Point postcard, which is one of a few Rhode Island in-jokes the film has for those from there…people who have never been to Rhode Island must see “Dumb and Dumber” and “Family Guy” and want to stay far away, and they would be right to do so) from Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), who was the Cranston town whore in the early 90s (full disclosure: I used to live in Cranston), revealing that Harry knocked her up.  When Harry and Lloyd go to see her, she tells them she gave the kid, a daughter, up for adoption.  When she tried to write to her, the letter was sent back return-to-sender.  Still, armed with her address, and Harry’s need for a kidney, the guys set out on a road trip to meet her.  Once again, they also get wrapped up in a nefarious criminal scheme they are completely oblivious to.

There’s not much else to say or analyze about the film.  It is a dumb comedy, and the only thing that matters is if the humor works or doesn’t.  Here, I’d say the humor kind-of works.  As a former Rhode Islander, I liked references to the Block Island Ferry and Buddy Cianci.  I enjoyed a few callbacks to jokes from the original film, like the blind boy whose parrot was decapitated.  Having the finale take place at a TED Talk-like conference of science-minded geniuses was a nice touch, and some of the new gags work well.  Some fall flat, but that’s the nature of a comedy.  I’d say the film works more than it fails, but the laughs are more light chuckles than hearty guffaws, and it never comes close to reaching the heights of hilarity that the original often did.  Granted, I am 31 and not 11, and the new film will work well with 10-year-old boys, but the original “Dumb and Dumber” works well with me now too.

A special mention should go out to the actress who plays the dumb daughter of Harry, Rachel Melvin.  She plays cute dumb very well without being annoying dumb or bimbo-dumb.  The type of dumb she is asked to play is much more difficult than you would think, a non-mentally handicapped child-like dumb, and she finds a way to make it work very well, almost in the same way Anna Faris sometimes can (though “The House Bunny” does go more for bimbo-dumb).

Overall, I’d say I’m pleased with “Dumb and Dumber To”, and it rides on nostalgia much better than “Anchorman 2” did.  It may not be hilarious, and it doesn’t quite fit with the current trends in filmic comedy, but it’s funny enough to get the job done.  Or maybe, get the job dumb. B-

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