Dumb and Dumber To
2014, PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Rachel Melvin, Laurie Holden, Steve Torn.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 21, 2014
The big dopes are back, perhaps 19 years too late and sans hue and cry, but back nevertheless because … well, because there’s always a place in our culture for dumb humor. Certainly, the endeavor’s reputation precedes it: 1994’s Dumb & Dumber was a watershed moment in the culture wars. Those idiotic nudniks, Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey), chapped the civilized world at the same time they tickled audiences silly. In the intervening years, however, our popular humor has grown coarser and the outlines of sophistication ever more complicated, and these guys just can’t deliver the comic ammo they used to. Even this sequel, released 20 years after the original, had to up the number of poop jokes from the first film’s doozies in order to keep up with public taste.
Funny in fits and starts, there are also some duller segments in Dumb and Dumber To. Part of what makes Jim Carrey’s comedy so funny is its unpredictability. Who could have guessed that Lloyd was going to hoist his legs over his head and set his fart on fire in the first film. Now we’ve come to expect that kind of behavior and can appreciate the difficulty of trying to top such outrageousness. The sequel provokes no similar outrages, but you will still find yourself laughing at gags you had thought were beneath you. And Jeff Daniels playing broadly against type (he’s usually cast as a brainy, speechifying sort) is also amusing.
The sequel’s plot follows a path that’s similar to the original, in which a missing suitcase gives rise to a cross-country trip. This time, the guys embark on a journey to find Harry’s daughter, whose existence has been newly discovered. Many old jokes and characters from the first film resurface, and Kathleen Turner jumps gamely into the character of Fraida Felcher, the floozy who came between Harry and Lloyd. Peter and Bobby Farrelly direct with their usual disregard for finer film aesthetics, blocking and framing everything within the proscenium arch, emphasizing antics over visual artistry. It’s a wonderful playground for Carrey’s physical humor and sight gags. Yet the film may just be a matter of too little, too late. There’s amusement to be had here, but it’s unlikely that anyone will fall for it “hook, line, and sphincter” (to use the movie’s parlance).