I was eight years old when the first Dumb and Dumber came out. It made me laugh and it made me fascinated. It was the very first gross-out film I ever saw. Images of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels committing these shockingly silly, disgusting and creepy acts were burned indelibly into my eight year old brain forever. What my younger self may not have realized at the time was that the reason why this ridiculous movie was so entertaining was because the two stars, along with the Farrelly Brothers as directors always struck an effective balance between outrageousness and sweetness. Despite their off-putting, selfish behavior, they loved each other and simply were striving to be happy. I even loved the movie enough to pay money to see Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd in theaters. Believe me, that’s dedication.
So needless to say, when I heard that both of the original stars, as well as the directors would be returning for this 20 years later sequel, I was excited. I felt that the Farrellys would have no problem harnessing what made the original special and memorable, as well as their other works like Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary. I refused to allow the lackluster trailer, the negative buzz, and the mere fact that after 20 years movies just aren’t made the same way anymore dissuade me. I was determined to believe that this would be something great. Obviously I should have thought harder. Yes, the Farrelly Brothers are back, but how long has it been since their last great movie? The Three Stooges? Hall Pass? Movie 43? Hell, the last thing they made that I really liked at all was Stuck On You and that was over a decade ago (yes, Stuck On You is good). But still, I wanted so much to believe that there would be something special here.
I imagine you’ve seen the trailer by now, but in case you haven’t, the film opens with Harry meeting Lloyd at an insane asylum. Lloyd has been catatonic for the twenty years since they were dumped by Mary “Samsonite” at the end of the first film. But it turns out Lloyd was faking all along just for the sake of fooling Harry. It doesn’t take any scholar to read into this. They’re telling us that nothing has changed, and we will be picking up with these two characters right where they left off. Except we know these characters now. Watching them do something a little dumb, or say something a little dumb isn’t enough. Apparently the filmmakers feel they have to shock us right off the bat. So Harry yanks on Lloyd’s catheter so hard that it pulls him from his wheelchair. I don’t know, folks. What do you think? Would the Harry of 1994 have done that? Would the Lloyd of 1994 have spent 20 years pretending to be sick? The first film succeeded because the characters just barely teetered on the edge of “fake movie character dumb” and “maybe you could meet these guys in real life” dumb. Their behavior was at least grounded enough in reality that it was easy to respond to. In this second film, it just feels desperate.
There are no scenes where Harry and Lloyd are just taking a moment to sit in their apartment, depressed, chatting about love, life and longing for something better. Instead of rather sweetly lusting after a beautiful same-age woman who Lloyd drove to the airport, in this film he’s lusting after a photograph of Harry’s daughter who is less than half his age. It’s just as creepy as it sounds, and I thought Creepy Carrey would never top his Zooey Deschanel love interest from Yes Man. They needlessly ridicule poor Kathleen Turner for looking manly. They make racist jokes at the expense of Harry’s adoptive parents. They shout “Show us your tits” to a woman making an important speech. This is all behavior that goes so far over the top that it’s too creepy and weird to be funny.
A sequence that actually manages to get some laughs is when they’re encountering a pair of schemers played by Rob Riggle and Laurie Holden (who you may, but probably don’t, remember from an only-slightly-less-dumb Jim Carrey vehicle called The Majestic). But what starts out reasonably funny, goes way over the top way too quickly. Remember when they accidentally seriously hurt Mike Starr’s character by putting atomic peppers in his burger, only to then kill him by accidentally feeding him rat poison instead of his pills? They essentially replicate that scenario here with Rob Riggle in Starr’s place, only rather than inadvertently injuring him, they intentionally launch fireworks in his hotel room causing him to jump out of his window into a swimming pool to avoid being burned to death. I ask you, dear readers, which scenario is funny, and which scenario is creepy? Comedy comes from misunderstanding, not intentional harm.
Occasionally the movie slows down enough to just place the camera directly in front of the two big stars and watch them go, and that does occasionally manage to generate some laughs. Neither of these two fine actors can be accused of phoning it in. They both give it their all, and then some. Jim Carrey wolfing down a banana in three seconds only to throw the peal away in an occupied coffin is impossible to not chuckle at. Their chemistry survives, even though the film around them feels desperate. Yet another in a long, long line of would-be comedies where if they had just followed the two actors with a camera for two hours straight, they probably would have come up with a funnier movie than what we got. The time between Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber To also represents the quality. If you’re as big a fan of the first film as I am, should you see it? It may be hard to stop you. But I see no other reason to endure this nonsense.