DUMB AND DUMBER TO Review

I was seven years-old the year the original Dumb and Dumber came out and as the oldest child was never privily to anything an older sibling might expose me too. That said, I never became attached to the original in a fashion that would conjure up nostalgic memories when catching it on cable or even when seeing the trailers earlier this summer for the long-delayed sequel. On the other hand, my wife who was six years-old when the original came out with a sixteen year-old brother and fourteen year-old sister looks at the first film as a comedy classic, as one that defines her adolescent years and one she can quote from back to front. That said as well, she wasn't very much looking forward to the unnecessary sequel as the original was probably a film best left alone. In the end, as someone who had no real emotional attachment to these characters I pretty much had the same reaction as the wife; it was a comedy, it was fine enough though nothing resembling great and it's unlikely it will deliver as much joy on repeat viewings (if it even gets that chance) as the original. Had the film been made closer to the original it might have worked, Jim Carrey might have delivered a duo of films on par with his Ace Ventura adventures, but at this point the attempt to capitalize on his past hits just feels desperate. This, on top of the fact of how old these guys look in their get-ups is just depressing. As much as people think critics (and I hesitate to call myself that as I'm simply an online movie blogger) love to rag on comedies I have said countless times on this site how much I love the subjective nature and the talented people it takes to bring these types of movies to life especially when they are able to leave a lasting impression. Even though I have nothing to do with the creative process or production, when I initially like a comedy that generally received bad reviews and eventually becomes something of a favorite to audiences I pride myself on that and feel a part of a bigger community, a community with a shared sense of humor. Unfortunately, a feeling of such insight didn't come to mind when watching Dumb and Dumber To, but rather the thought of how cruel time can be and how punishing the industry can be, especially on a funny man looking for a laugh.

Harry (Jeff Daniels) takes care of Lloyd (Jim Carrey) in a time of need.
Twenty years has passed since their first adventure and in that time Lloyd (Carrey) has done nothing with his life but set-up a gag to trick Harry (Jeff Daniels) into thinking he's gone crazy. Sitting in a psychiatric hospital for the last two decades have allowed the character to not advance or grow at all (not that he would have anyway) while Harry has reached a breaking point in visiting his old friend due to his own personal health issues. Harry needs a new kidney and naturally, the only way for him to find a donor is to go cross country on a road trip with his newly rehabilitated best friend in search of a long-lost daughter he never knew existed. Just because I don't have a connection to the original doesn't mean I haven't seen it and though I likely missed a few of them, you can't help but catch a fair amount of call backs as they make up a good seventy-five percent of the movie. A major one is that of who slept with Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) first because she is the mother of said child Harry never knew existed. It turns out Fraida gave the child, whom she named Penny (Rachel Melvin), up for adoption and has only tried to contact her once since with no success in re-connecting. Unable to refuse the opportunity, Harry and Lloyd set out to find Harry and Fraida's long lost offspring in order to save Harry. Of course, when they reach the address they have for Penny's adoptive parents the bumbling duo come upon a situation where Penny's father is a wealthy scientist (Steve Tom) married to a gold digger (Laurie Holden) who is in cahoots with their handyman Travis (Rob Riggle) to poison and kill the good scientist in order to inherit his millions. Harry and Lloyd throw a wrench into these plans and drag Travis on a trip down to Plano, Texas where Penny has just left for in order to speak for her father at a science convention. Essentially, this is the same story as the first film but with different circumstances and Riggle playing the Mike Starr role. There is little to be laughed at, but more than enough to shake your head at.

What is so dumbfounding about this movie though is why it was thought to be a good idea to make in the first place. Sure, the first film grossed nearly $250 million on a $17 million budget and gave us everything the Farrely Brothers have done since, but were they so desperate for a hit that it took going back to their roots to deliver what the studio demanded? It is as if they were in the same boat as Carrey, neither of which have had much success in the realm of comedy for the better part of the last decade. It is a depressing state of affairs and even moreso that this is the fruit of what they feel they are forced to do in order to recover. The Farrely's have delivered almost any kind of comedy you can imagine over the course of their careers, most recently going back to the basics of the R-rated gross out comedy with Hall Pass followed by the sweet and harmless reincarnation of The Three Stooges (which I genuinely, really enjoyed). Carrey hasn't had a comedy hit as a leading man since 2003's Bruce Almighty which was a welcome return to form in many ways, so at this point people just seem tired of the gag. We know what Carrey can do as a serious performer, we know the range the guy has and that he can be more than just a plastic face with a willingness to go as far as it takes for the joke to succeed. In Dumb and Dumber To, which is really Carrey's story more than it is Daniels who just seems present to goof off and have some fun, the guy who played Lloyd twenty years ago is almost nowhere to be found and instead what we have is a heightened sense of the character that has been built up over the years in the actors head. It doesn't even feel like this is the same character, but instead that Carrey has become so disconnected with his own mythology as a performer that he can't even keep in line what his character knows and how stupid he actually is. This lack of investment only makes the final product feel more disheartening and more of a quick, reliable cash-grab.

Lloyd tries to impress Harry's daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), in Dumb and Dumber To.
I and the collective people understand that the point of these movies is to be dumb and somewhat nauseating, but I think we also understood the subversive intelligence behind the original in that they were pointing out candid observations about our confused society. All of that interesting subtext that made the original fun on a completely different level is mostly absent from this sequel which only relies on mispronounced words and wrong word association to garner way too many (non) laughs. It is almost astonishing that there was even enough interest to justify making a sequel to a twenty year-old property, but like so many things being given new life these days the thought of what actually could be outweighs the reality of the situation and that is again what happens here. The clear signs of age on both Carrey and Daniels faces are depressing enough, but to see them trying so hard to recapture the magic that was effortless before, that they likely didn't even realize they were creating, is even worse. While it is pitiful to see Carrey result to such levels so as to give his career a boost Daniels didn't necessarily need the boost and it is almost cringe-worthy to see him try so hard to be funny again. Any actor will admit comedy is always the harder genre to pull off and I imagine Daniels is no different in his opinion, which is why after doing more serious work for the better part of his career, it doesn't seem to come as naturally to the talented actor. He doesn't seem to be phoning it in as much as his co-star, but his instincts tend to be toward the more obvious schtick rather than the outlandish that Carrey does so well. Maybe I'm wrong, I'd love to be wrong, and Carrey is just so overly-excited to be back in in the bowl cut and chipped tooth that his intensity comes off as lazy in the sense he seems to be going the easiest route possible. That would indeed take away the factor that says, "If they don't care, why should I?" but no matter how much time or thought was put into this twenty years too late sequel it's hard to care what happened to Harry and Lloyd because we always knew they wouldn't change and that pristine picture of them from 1994 was all we ever needed to love them.