A lot has changed in the last 20 years — looking back on it now, the 90’s feel almost quaint. It was a time when the internet was a novelty (a fad, they said, on par with the HAM radio phase of the 70’s), the economy was booming, a robust middle class served as the backbone of a nation’s good fortune, and the concept of world peace seemed not only achievable but tantalizingly imminent. It was during this time of hopeful naiveté that a fresh-faced, energetic young comedian first endeared himself to the collective heart and mind of the American people.
I guess that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. Jim Carrey has remained firmly in our hearts as one of the funniest men in America, uniting young and old alike with a love for his manic slapstick and rubber-faced antics. While other comedians who sprung up in his wake might have a more subtle, witty approach to humor, Carrey has made a name for himself as — so to speak — the lowest common denominator. We don’t look to Carrey for piercing commentary or nuanced characterization (though, to be sure, he’s shown us on numerous occasions that he’s more than capable of delivering just that); we look to Carrey for fart jokes and zaniness.
As you can probably imagine, that is precisely what you get with Dumb and Dumber To.
I’ll be up front and admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the original Dumb and Dumber. Sure, I liked it when it was released 20 years ago, but I was also 12 years old. To a 12 year-old, a movie about two idiots on a cross country journey filled with bathroom humor and Jim Carrey might as well be Citizen Fucking Kane. Like the world, and society in general, I’ve grown since then, and I prefer things a little more (SNOB ALERT!!!) highbrow when it comes to my comedy. But highbrow ain’t exactly part of the Farrelly Brothers’ repertoire. As much as the world and I have changed, the Farrelly Brothers still excel as kings of the lowbrow.
There’s a kind of comfort in that, I suppose. Regardless of what’s going on in the world or in your life, Peter and Bobby Farrelly pop up every so often with another pointless but potentially hilarious movie that isn’t designed to be anything but surface; it’s something you can stare at for a couple of hours and hopefully laugh at, taking your mind off of whatever concern might be troubling you for at least a little while. If that’s your thing, Dumb and Dumber To is probably the perfect night out at the movies.
Though it’s been 20 years since we last saw the lovable nitwits Harry and Lloyd (Jeff Daniels and Carrey, respectively), not a whole lot has changed. It’s been said that age doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom, and that’s certainly the case here. They’re still the same bumbling morons who once drove across country to hopefully re-meet a beautiful girl that Lloyd drove to the airport one time. Their long absence from the screen is explained (sort of) in the opening scenes, as we see that Lloyd has been faking insanity for the last two decades as a goof on his buddy. He’s pulled out of his joke, however, when Harry confesses that his kidneys are failing and that he needs to find a donor. The two then discover Harry had a long lost child who’s probably a decent match for a transplant, and the two set out on a cross-country adventure to find her. Along the way, the unwittingly make enemies with a criminal element who tries to kill them but ends up being thwarted by the duo’s unwavering idiocy.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s more or less the exact same plot as the original Dumb and Dumber. I guess if it ain’t broke, you know? Besides, we’re not exactly expected to look for nuanced development in a movie called Dumb and Dumber To. Expecting subtlety is roughly as foolish as one of Harry and Lloyd’s endless dumbass antics.
Really, though, the plot is just the broad strokes. The story exists only to serve as a skeleton, providing the framework for the jokes and gags that fill the screen time. To that end, I’ll give them this: They weren’t overly reliant on gags from the first movie. While it would have been easy to just hit the repeat button on the jokes that worked the first time, the Farrellys have endeavored to at least deliver some new punchlines instead of recycling the entire script. Sure, some of the old favorites are still there — in a sequel, they almost have to be — but they’re used in such a way that it feels more like an inside joke among friends rather than the whole raison d’etre.
If you’re a fan of the original, Dumb and Dumber To is probably going to be right up your alley. They’ve managed to capture the spirit of what made the first movie such a long-lasting hit among fans, and they’ve done so without feeling like a retread. You can almost look at this movie as a sort of deconstruction of its predecessor. The essence of what you’ve come to love is there, but it’s used in new ways.
But I am not a fan of the original, so nor am I a fan of this. The humor is too lowbrow and too base for my tastes. However, I’m willing to admit that this might be a good thing. I’m clearly not the audience for this movie, and no one involved particularly cares whether some snobby critic found their film to be at all funny (which, in case I haven’t been clear, I did not). Will the average movie goer find it hilarious? Probably. It’s worth noting that while I stared at the screen, stoic and unmoved, the rest of the screening audience howled and fell out of their chairs with laughter.
So take from that what you will. More than any other film this year, you know better than I whether or not this is a “good movie” or a “bad movie,” and chances are you’re going to know that before you even see it. I can’t imagine there’s going to be a whole lot of middle ground here. There won’t be a mass of converts to the Dumb and Dumber fandom, and I don’t expect that they’re going to lose any of their existing supporters. This movie is what it is and nothing more.