Dumb and Dumberer To threatens – at multiple intersections – to sidestep its truly manic, childish comic sensibilities for a gargantuan black hole of doo-doo jokes. “Smell my finger” gags, “lock in the fart” physical comedy and even the dreaded diaper change all rear their ugly fecal heads throughout the film. It’s as if the Farrelly Brothers were contractually obligated (by Charmin perhaps?) to insert a poo-based beat every 20 minutes. Some of it is scoff-worthy, other segments, truly face-palming. But what is miraculous about this long-gestated Dumb and Dumber sequel is that between the farts (a sentence reserved only for the likes of this breed of low-brow comedy), there is comic gold. To borrow an age-old phrase, it totally redeems itself.
Coming a full two decades after the first installment, Dumb and Dumber To doesn’t miss a beat reestablishing its titular dullard duo. Having gone into a “full retard” coma after being turned down by the ravishingly ginger Mary Samsonite, Lloyd is a scraggly-haired (with frontal bowl cut still intact), diaper-clad, catheter-wearing potato. Harry, played by Emmy winner Jeff Daniels, makes routine visits to cheer the spirits of the now vegetablesque Lloyd.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know that his twenty year stay in a mental institute was all a gag to “get” Harry. Or at least that’s what Lloyd claims, shaking his head like a spring rider. But what make the first Dumb and Dumber stick is its venomous (and often under-appreciated) dark humor. In the first film, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to read Harry as a suicidal maniac on the brink of offing himself. If you wanted to, you could even make an argument that Lloyd (like Ferris Bueller) is little more than a figment of Harry’s crumbling imagination; a loony toon ghost of Christmas past (damn right the pun was intended). Taking this into account (the dark humor, not my baloney “Lloyd isn’t real” assertion), it could easily be understood that Lloyd did indeed suffer a mental break after his odds of being one in a million turned to dust in his palm. Grim, I know, but I think the idea that Lloyd is actually incarcerated at a mental institution adds weight to a story that often defies gravity and needs much more grounding. More likely, it’s just a comedy and I shouldn’t be thinking that hard about it.
When Dumb and Dumber struck theaters like a rubber chicken in the face, Jim Carrey was riding high on the success of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. He was the comedy “it” boy de jour; a new face of physical extremism; the harbinger of buckshot, go-for-broke, face-morphing farce. It would appear that he would do anything for a laugh. He was willing to make the most annoying sound in the world. Willing to speak out of his butt. In the years since, he’s produced a number of other comic gold standards amongst offering a surprising amount of adroit dramatic performances. To see him step into the shoes of a bonafide moron again though is something truly special. In that bowl cut and chipped front tooth, Carrey is home and he couldn’t be more committed.
Daniels continues to play second fiddle but he really is the true numb nuts of the two; the dumber of the dumb. Lloyd could almost be described as a sadomasochistic sociopath. After all, he did rat out Harry to Seabass with the loyalty of Benedict Arnold Palmer. With Harry, there’s none of the depth of intention. He’s a fly by the seat of his pants breed of stupid. A kind of stupid that’s quick to anger and even quicker to blame. Lloyd and Harry both need to nestle their emotions in a bottle. Make no mistake, these are dark characters. They just so happen to find solace in soiled drawers and funny suits.
Where Dumb and Dumber To both succeeds and falls flat is in the script’s understanding of the true nature of their stupidity. When the dynamic two-o are by themselves, sharing a hotdog or explaining why Harry named his cat butthole (“Good name. Totally fits.”), they shine. When we move into the second act and more characters arrive that we’re supposed to care about, things become hairier and tend towards the hit-or-miss department. What makes Harry and Lloyd memorable is their general misunderstanding of the world around them – they’re more zoo animal than human – not their low IQ level and sexual misadventures.
If there’s one complaint that cannot be lobbed at the screenwriter committee (there are six credited writers) it’s that they don’t hold anything back. From old ladies private parts to finagling free booze, they throw every strand of comedy spaghetti at the wall and see what will stick. As Dumb/Dumber Dos loses steam in the second half, you can taste the jokes souring in a haze of lazy and uninspired old farts. But that doesn’t overwhelm the fact that there are many things to cherish: Carrey going tête-à-tête with a barking German Shepard, Harry’s new astronaut roommate (a celebrity cameo you’ll likely miss), Lloyd’s obsession with a certain picture. Farrellys and Co. do manage to sneak in some of the subtle (pronounced sub-tull) humor of missed pronunciation and cultural ignorance. They also plant Easter Egg references to the original with the delicacy of a giant holiday bunny. But whatever, I still laughed.
Amongst the new additions to the cast include a fair number of faces you won’t recognize by name alone. Rob Riggles (Anchorman) all but steps in for an ulcer-pill swallowing Mike Starr while the gorgeous and fairly affable Rachel Melvin plays is-she-or-isn’t-she offspring of Harry. Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead‘s deceased Andrea) is the vixen foil, Steve Tom as the genius Dr. Pinchlow, her body-weathered mark. That Harry and Lloyd eventually end up with a mysterious package that they must deliver across the country could be interpreted as either a throwback or lazy carbon-copying. I’m willing to contend a little bit of both.
So was the wait worth it? Yes and no. Clearly Carrey and Daniels held the keys to ignition on this one and they waited until they had the means to hold up the laugh factory. Twenty years on though is a long time to wait and the field of comedy has changed a lot (for better or worse). And though it’s far from perfect, they have achieved their ultimate goal: to make us laugh. It takes a rapist wit to pull off a comedy so recklessly dumb, derivative, harebrained and ultimately inspired and yet the Farrelly’s, Carrey and Daniels do it, even when they have to kind of drag their asses over the finish line.
So long as you’re willing to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, you’ll realize it’s not the comedy itself that’s dulled. Rather, those of us raised on Jim Carrey one-liners have grown old and tired. Armpit farts just aren’t funny anymore (though I’m not convinced they ever were…) But dumb is as dumb does and the Farrellys do dumb like dumb needs to be done (write that in a John Deere letter three times.) I’m not quite willing to say that “I like it a lot” but I cannot deny the truckload of laughs it had me bellowing.
If you appreciated the original (and still find that it holds up today), you’ll find a lot to love in this sequel. Dumb though it may be, and offensively stuffed with toilet humor, there’s enough wit, more than enough commitment on the part of the actors and just enough new one-liners to give the Farrelly’s, and Jim Carrey’s comedy career, a new lease on life.