Escape to the Movies
Dumb & Dumber To: Just Dumber

Bob Chipman | 14 Nov 2014 12:00
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Dumb & Dumber To was the nostalgia flashback nobody needed, dull and lifeless and - yes - too dumb to enjoy.

Releases November 14th. Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Laurie Holden, Kathleen Turner, Brady Bluhm, Steve Tom, Rachel Melvin, Rob Riggle and Paul Blackthorne. Directors: Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly. Distributed by Universal Pictures.


The original Dumb & Dumber arrived in 1994 like a blast of fresh air into a somewhat stagnant early-90s comedy scene, featuring then super-hot megastar Jim Carrey in his most unusual and broad-ranged role to date, a new comic voice and vision courtesy of the previously unheard of Farrelly Brothers and a reminder of just how funny Jeff Daniels can be whenever someone is... yeah, reminded of just how funny Jeff Daniels can be.

It was a film that lived up to its title: Broad, simplistic, relentlessly silly and built around a pair of characters whose gimmick was the complete lack of a gimmick: Harry Dunn and Lloyd Christmas are two lifelong best friends who're stupid and... that's it. That's their entire characterization, and the basis (along with Carrey and Daniels' remarkable onscreen chemistry) of basically every joke in the movie. But it worked - Dumb & Dumber was remarkably funny and one of the great comedies of the 90s, justly remembered as a modern comedy classic today.

But it was also a clear case of lightning in a bottle; a once in a lifetime confluence of talent and circumstance that would never, ever work twice. So it would be absolutely idiotic for anyone to even attempt making a sequel... instead they made a prequel - 2003's Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd - with different actors. Which nobody saw and less than nobody liked. And then things sorta went bad for Jim Carrey. And went really bad for the Farrelly Brothers. So now we're back to the well a full 20 years later, with a new sequel now set in a bizarre netherworld where it feels like Daniels is the one doing everyone else a favor by agreeing to be in this thing.

To say that Dumb & Dumber To "doesn't work" is beside the point. Of course it doesn't work - was anyone seriously expecting it to? An attempt to re-tell a 20 year old joke with no real augmentation other than to acknowledge ad-nauseum that it IS a 20 year old joke, how could anyone have expected anything other than a depressing slog through the land of cheap cash-ins? It doesn't even feel like an appeal to a new audience raised on DVD replays of the original film so much as it's a plea for original fans to give this rehash a try in lieu of watching the DVD again at least for one weekend.

The plot, charitably, finds Harry and Lloyd back together after two decades of Lloyd setting up the film's only real sustained laugh. Harry thinks he needs a new kidney, so the pair set off in search of his previously unknown daughter with Lloyd coming along because he's fallen in love with the now-adult woman's photograph. This puts them into a murder plot scenario that they never seem to be fully aware of, just like the first time around but this time with staler jokes and what feels like an uncharacteristic level of holding back from the once-outrageous Farrelly Brothers.

What's most disconcerting is how tired everyone seems to feel. Carrey and Daniels are all hitting the right marks and going through the right motions, but there's no sense whatsoever that they're glad to be back together or reviving these characters. The Farellys never bothered to develop much in the way of a visual style in the intervening years, but now even the behind-the-camera energy has left them. The great Rob Riggle and the legendary Kathleen Turner, both usually reliable to invigorate even the most tired project, seem to be walking around in a daze. I hope everyone was well-paid, at least.

Just about the only person onhand who seems to be having any fun is relative newcomer Rachel Melvin, who plays the would-be estranged daughter in question. Tasked with playing a slightly different, slightly younger version of "dumb," she turns it into something endearing and funny in its own right - to the extent that I'd much rather have seen a whole movie or at least maybe a comedy sketch about this character than about any of the leads.

Look, I get that this is just easy money for all involved - who knows, if I'd made something that was as popular as Dumb & Dumber was 20 years back and I saw how much money was being raked in over half-assed nostalgia I'd probably make this movie, too. But did it really have to feel so tired? Trade in such dated, obvious jokes or worse stabs at relevant jokes? This sequel was never going to be the original or even a great film in its own right, but I can't accept that this movie had to feel like this much of a waste of my time and yours.

Bottom Line: On the plus-side, "90s'talgia" probably can't produce much worse than this.

Recommendation: Stay home and re-watch the original. And then Me, Myself & Irene. And then try and work out why those still hold up but There's Something About Mary now feels so profoundly dated.

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