Look at the title. Look at the cast. Look inside yourself. Then look back at the title and the cast. Then look back inside yourself. Did you see the first Dumb and Dumber film? Did you like it? Are you willing to admit to yourself that you can still laugh at stupid shit? Are you unafraid of unabashedly liking a film that does nothing new and yet still manages to get big laughs out of being a sequel piss take that actually one ups the so-so meta-sequel antics of 22 Jump Street in a less smug and showy way? Look at the title. Look at the cast. Look inside yourself. Then realize that you are not beneath Dumb and Dumber To, the latest film from lowbrow auteurs Peter and Bobby Farrelly. It’s smartly made comfort food for people who have checked their ego at the door and want nothing more than to lose themselves in something goofy and oddly life affirming for two hours. If you hated the first film, or you like to think that you’re somehow above liking a twenty years in the waiting sequel because you’re somehow older and wiser, you’ll hate it.
I for one welcomed it. I laughed my head off at the return of Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). It transported me back to when I was 12 again and this film’s precursor taught me that stupid humour takes a lot of brains to work. Sure, this follow-up isn’t anything more than a slapdash follow-up that’s more random episodes of people getting into wacky, nonsensical hijinks within the almost exact same construct as the first film, but the Farrellys actually bothered to make it funny again and not a bunch of has been cashing a cheque.
When I say it’s the exact same movie, I mean it’s the exact same movie only done with characters too stupid to realize they’re performing callbacks to earlier material. It’s once again an oddly labyrinthine road film where Harry and Lloyd have to deliver something from point A to point B and screw everything up along the way.
It’s twenty years later and Lloyd has been playing a goof on Harry by pretending to be catatonic in a mental hospital. Once that joke ends (with the title card coming up over a gag where Harry and a pair of gardeners attempt to yank a catheter out of Lloyd’s pee-hole), the stage is set for a plot where Harry desperately needs a kidney transplant and the only family he has left as a potential donor is the daughter he never knew he had with one time fling Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner). They find out that the almost equally dimwitted offspring (Rachel Melvin) was given up for adoption and was taken in by a kindly scientist (Steve Tom) who has sent her to El Paso, Texas to deliver a speech at some science convention. Harry and Lloyd have once again also stumbled into a plot where someone wants to extort money from someone, this time in the form of a conniving wife (Laurie Holden) and her pool-boy accomplice (Rob Riggle, in a dual role as his own twin brother, who happens to be a former special forces soldier). Harry and Lloyd are tasked with delivering a small package “worth billions” that can “change the future of mankind” and deliver it to the girl, who Lloyd also has an uncontrollable and unhealthy crush on.
But honestly, who gives a shit? The fact that Dumb and Dumber To is at least too complicated by half actually becomes part of the fun because it underlines just how ridiculously over-plotted and episodic the previous film was. I don’t think anyone involved with this production is acting under the auspices that they have made an enduring piece of cinema or something that’s looking deep inside the human condition. I doubt they even think they made anything remotely original. The focus here is on keeping the energy up, raising the surreal nature of the first film beyond its logical extremes, and going for broke with every ludicrous set up even if the gags don’t hit the mark. It’s oddly fearless in how unpretentious it all is, and yet there’s no denying that everyone involved actually gives a shit. If they didn’t, not only would there not be a film, but no one would have put as much effort into a film they don’t care about.
Daniels and Carrey haven’t missed a step. Watching them play off each other as effortlessly as they do is kind of a low-brow miracle. The characters and the relationship between them is clearly something they hold close to their hearts. It might have been twenty years and both actors have aged accordingly, but the disconnect between their age and their intellect works even better here than it did in the first film. At no point do Harry and Lloyd ever stop to question how familiar everything is between this film and the first one because these are two people too stupid to notice coincidence. Now that might be an acquired sense of humour, but that kind of oblivious is something I find hilarious. It works in something like MacGruber or in the films of David Wain, and it certainly works wonders here. If you hate those kinds of films, then Dumb and Dumber To will probably be positively toxic.
That’s why I made the comparison to 22 Jump Street earlier. As funny as I thought that film was in spurts, that’s a film where the main characters are buffoons, but somehow smart enough to realize they’re buffoons. There’s something a lot more comically satisfying about a film where the buffoons stay buffoons and there’s no onus on the part of the characters and filmmakers to comment sarcastically about how crazy things are. Harry and Lloyd are too blissfully dense to realize things around them are ludicrous, so they just accept everything at face value. It’s genuine comedy that never acts too cool for the room. They’re decidedly uncool and willing to be unfunny, and yet it allows the audience to figure that out for themselves.
Much like the last film, the supporting cast boasts some good sports capable of getting their hands dirty for some naughty humour, even though the villains this time are more obviously outlandish than the baddies last time. Riggle makes for a particularly welcome addition, but the real revelation here is Melvin. Her comedic chops are positively off the charts, matching the relative veterans put into her proximity with gleeful aplomb. If anything, this one isn’t afraid to get more surreal than the last entry, and the cast seems to relish the chance to be, well, dumber. How much more surreal? There’s a bit with some ninjas, a trio of suspect looking Toronto Maple Leafs fans, and a joke involving human organ trafficking. I’ll just leave it at that.
As for the actual content of the humour beyond the aforementioned nods to the first film, I’m just amazed that someone actually gave a PG-13 rating to a film that shows a severed set of testicles, a joke that equates an old woman’s vagina to a turkey, and briefly shows the aftermath of a bird massacre. It’s definitely old school Farrellys, and unabashedly so. It’s that same balance of blatant political incorrectness and generally sweet naïveté that they built their career on, and the kind of humour Seth MacFarlane attempts to do and often fails at. In a MacFarlane effort, cracks at the less fortunate or marginalized are simply left to hang as a half-assed form of social commentary that hides behind the auspice of being “edgy” or “satirical.” Here when the Farrelly’s make a gag about someone in a wheelchair or the elderly, it’s to actually show that these people are the lifeblood of what truly makes America great, and that the self-effacing snobs around them are the squares that make the world dull and boring. Sure, some of the jokes are cringe-worthy, but they’re meant to be. There designed that way to make the audience realize that they shouldn’t conform to what popular opinion wants them to be. The individualst sentiment of a Farrelly Brothers production has always been their strongest suit and what was absent from their biggest failures (most notably Hall Pass), but here, as it did with their underrated Three Stooges, it comes back with a vengeance.
Again, it’s going to come down to whether or not your taste in comedy has progressed, or possibly if it has gotten darker over time. If it hasn’t and you now prefer your witty exchanges to not come with a bunch of dick and fart jokes, the train has left the station for you and it’s never coming back. And sure, if you hate recycled gags no matter how much they get subverted, you’ll probably moan and groan your way through the entire picture.
But if you just want some more time with Harry and Lloyd being their doofus alteregos one more time, Dumb and Dumber To will hit that sweet spot like an all you can eat trip to the candy store. Again, if you’ve reached the point where you no longer want to revel in such frivolity or you have no desire to relive those halcyon days of youth, to paraphrase Lloyd, you’re boned. James boned.