It’s been twenty years since Dumb and Dumber landed in theaters and went on to become a comedy classic. That a sequel wasn’t made in the 1990’s defies logic by today’s standards, when turning even a small profit sends studio execs into daydreams of a franchise. Dumb and Dumber To isn’t your standard sequel; it’s a few decades after the fact and today’s target PG-13 audience wasn’t even born when the original was released. There’s also a sense of urgency on the part of directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly, whose output since 1998’s There’s Something About Mary has been in steady decline. Some effort was going to be mandatory. The good news is that Dumb and Dumber To contains enough laughs, clever references to the original film, and two all-in performances from Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Picking up twenty years after Dumb and Dumber ended, Lloyd (Carrey) and Harry (Daniels) discover that Harry has a long lost daughter, Penny (Melvin), who’s been adopted by a wealthy scientist (Steve Tom) and his wife, Adele (Holden). They set out to track her down in El Paso, Texas, running into familiar road trip pratfalls and schemers looking to cash in on the scientist’s mysterious invention.
Following up a classic of your own making is not an easy task, and it can be said right off the bat that Dumb and Dumber To isn’t as funny as its counterpart. But how could it be? Rather than build up jokes, such as the diner or landmark diarrhea scenes of the original, the Farrellys and their team of writers (a whopping six in all) take a kitchen sink approach. This results in a fair number of big laughs but also numerous misfires. The puns and mangled English quickly wear out their welcome. The bathroom humor, of which there is a lot, is protracted, but manages to never cross over into flat-out gross territory. The Farrellys are still plenty adept at sight gags and timing out hilarious and bizarre situations. The energy level is always high, even in the face of a barrage of jokes that don’t always work.
Immense credit must go to Carrey and Daniels, both of whom pick up right where they left off with the characters of Lloyd and Harry. Playing each more over-the-top than before, they retain the chemistry that made them so memorable in the first place. Rob Riggle turns up in an entertaining double-role, effectively playing the straight man to Lloyd and Harry’s brand of anarchy. Kathleen Turner also gets some laughs as the once-sought-after Fraida Felcher.
There’s undoubtedly still an audience for a Dumb and Dumber sequel, namely those whose foundation years are marked with repeat viewings of the 1994 original. Dumb and Dumber To manages not to tarnish the original, but it’s also not nearly as memorable, quotable, or funny. Enough of the material sticks to say it gets the job done. As comedy sequels go, it’s a step up from the norm. For many that will meet realistic expectations.
Shameless Plug: I recently watched Dumb and Dumber for the bazillionth time and wrote about it in 20 Years Later: Dumb and Dumber.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.
Theatrical Release: November 14, 2014
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly
Written by: Sean Anders & John Morris
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin