Dumb and Dumber To
What propels filmmakers to make a sequel to a 20-year old film? Is it nostalgia for the brand of comedy that characterized the original? Is it desperation on everyone's part to revive flagging careers? Or is it Hollywood's acceptance that recognizable brands should be given preferential treatment over anything untried? Whatever the reason, the waning months of 2014 have brought us the follow-up to 1994's Dumb and Dumber, but the lengthy gestation period hasn't resulted in an appreciably upgraded experience.
Dumb and Dumber represented the directorial debut of the Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby), who would achieve notoriety four years later with There's Something about Mary. 1994 was Jim Carrey's breakout year - he was able to command a $7 million salary for Dumb and Dumber (nearly half the budget). The film was a huge success, making north of $100 million at the box office (when $100 million meant something), but it was nine years before a prequel was commissioned. 2003's Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd featured the participation of neither the Farrellys nor stars Carrey and Jeff Daniels and was greeted at American multiplexes with deserved indifference. Fast-forward to 2014. With Carrey no longer a major draw (translation: cheaper) and the Farrellys more than a decade past their last hit, the return of Lloyd and Harry became a reality. But does anyone care?
It's likely that those with an abiding love of Dumb and Dumber will be pleased by the tone and approach of Dumb and Dumber To, which carefully replicates the few strengths and many weaknesses of its predecessor. Carrey in particular shows an uncanny knack for turning back the clock: he hasn't been this annoying since his second turn as Ace Ventura. Jeff Daniels looks considerably older but duplicates the boyish charm he showed two decades ago when his features were less craggy and wrinkled. Truth be told, Dumb and Dumber To is a better made film than Dumb and Dumber. The jokes are more consistently funny and the production values are stronger. That doesn't make it a good movie but at least it's not unbearable.
Dumb and Dumber To opens with a Rip Van Winkle premise (the comedic potential of which is woefully underused) - Lloyd (Carrey) awakens after being in a coma for 20 years. Then comes the bombshell: Harry (Daniels) reveals that, without a kidney transplant, he's not long for this life. Soon after, the duo learns that a fling Harry had with Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) 22 years ago resulted in a pregnancy. The baby girl was given up for adoption and now bears the name of Penny Pinchelow (Rachel Melvin). Considering her genetic makeup, she has what's necessary to provide Harry with his new kidney, so the two most clueless men in America go on a trip (in a hearse) to track down Penny, who is their Mensa match.
Dumb and Dumber To is constructed like most road movies, with an episodic structure. A few of these segments are amusing; most do little more than pad out the running time. There are some big laughs but many of the jokes try too hard or simply aren't funny. The returning actors deliver as expected. Newcomers like Laurie Holden, who plays Adele, Penny's devious step-mother, and Rob Riggle as Travis, Adele's lover and henchman, don't add much. Rachel Melvin, however, is delightful, channeling the "dumb and dumber" approach to a female personality.
The big question facing everyone involved in Dumb and Dumber To is whether there's an audience out there. Although the movie does its best to push the PG-13 envelope when it comes to sexual and scatological references, there's nothing groundbreaking here and members of the core demographic for films of this nature weren't born when Dumb and Dumber was released. Will those in their mid-30s show up? Despite being sporadically entertaining, Dumb and Dumber To has all the hallmarks of a nostalgia-fueled cash-grab. It's neither good nor terrible and even those who remember its predecessor with affection would be advised to wait for the DVD. This doesn't need to be seen in theaters or, for that matter, at all.
© 2014 James Berardinelli