After being two of the biggest comedy directors of the 1990s, Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been in a slump for years, making movies ranging from poor (Stuck on You) to terrible (Hall Pass). With Dumb and Dumber To the siblings have gone back to their roots – perhaps in hopes of capturing the same spark that made their early films so great – and while the finished result is one of their best movies in years, it unfortunately still falls short.
Following real time and set 20 years after the first film, the sequel essentially replicates the formula from Dumb and Dumber, sending Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) on a cross country mission that ensures they will find themselves stuck in all kinds of ridiculous situations along the way. Though the structure is a tad too familiar at times – the film working a little too hard to directly remind the audience of the story and plot points they loved back in the ‘90s – the narrative choice is understandable, given that it provides the two protagonists the chance to fall into a wide variety of wacky adventures. Of course, only some of these work and some of them don’t – and it’s sadly a less-than-desirable ratio that winds up dooming the movie.
While there are parts in Dumb and Dumber To that will make you laugh so hard that you’ll be left breathless, simply too much time is left dedicated to both bad jokes and funny jokes that are allowed to overstay their welcome and ultimately implode. What’s really rough about this is the fact that it’s a problem that could seemingly be fixed quite easily. The episodic quality to the various points in the adventure often lets the script be more dedicated to the comedy than it is to the thin larger plot, but what that should have allowed was for the Farrellys to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and make the sequel lean and punchy. More often than not, though, it feels sloppy and overdone. Within context, a cat slaughtering an exotic bird collection is funny, but you over do it when you then cut to a shot of the cat farting CGI feathers.
Above all, the natural attraction of Dumb and Dumber To is seeing Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey return to two of the best characters in their respective careers, but even that’s a less-than-favorable mixed bag in the end. To his credit, Daniels really effortlessly falls back into the role of Harry, the actor effusing giddy stupidity from beneath his blond mop-top wig, but it’s the characterization of Lloyd and Carrey’s performance that throws the duo off kilter. The bowl cut-sporting, chipped tooth dummy is at his funniest when he is being idiotic but innocent – such as whispering sweet nothings to a rabid dog at a gas station that would just love to bite his face off – but there is a bizarre mean-spiritedness to him in the film that goes far beyond the rather harmless backstabbing featured in the original. We laugh when Lloyd gives Harry laxatives before a date with the girl of his dreams, but it’s just not funny for him to blurt out “Me love you long time” in front of an elderly Asian couple. He doesn’t so much come across as dumb and ignorant as he does crude and insulting – and by the end it makes you wonder why Harry is willing to put up with it.
It would almost be nice if Dumb and Dumber To had wound up being catastrophically terrible, as we could have just dismissed it in the “never should have been made” category of sequels. Given all that is good and what works about the film, it’s hard to shake the feeling that what has been presented could be edited down to a much tighter, 80- minute film. But that’s not what the Farrelly’s have delivered, and it will likely leave audiences disappointed more than anything.