I’m not too proud to admit that I enjoyed Dumb and Dumber when it came out, and that I have fond memories of the film. Granted, it was 20 years ago and I was 16-years-old, but it was Jim Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers working at the height of their respective games. In the intervening years, I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it again because I’m afraid it will tarnish otherwise pleasant recollections, but I think I can go ahead and give it a shot because the new sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, just did a solid job of ruining the first film for me.
To be fair, this isn’t the worst movie you’ve ever seen. It’s not Jack and Jill bad, Al Pacino doesn’t rap or anything so tragic, but it just doesn’t offer anything of any real value or interest. This feels like a leftover from the 1990s,—if your stoner buddy pulled out a VHS tape of this and said it was his favorite movie back in the day, you’d believe it. We’re talking about the exact style of humor as the first, only without any hint of freshness, or even indications that they’re trying. (Though as mild and flavorless as this is, it’s still light years ahead of the prequel, 2003’s Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.)
The crude style of comedy that marked the Farrellys’ heyday hasn’t aged well. The old lady vagina gag in Dumb and Dumber To is stale and tired, playing like a watered-down rehash of a bit from their best movie, Kingpin, which itself was 18 years ago. Even their attempts at non-PC-ness and pushing boundaries come across as almost quaint, like they’re included because that’s what they do. For instance, there’s the Chinese/Mexican restaurant, the whole purpose of which seems to be to show a mariachi band where one of the members is Asian. You almost want to pat the duo on the head like a small child and say, “Aww, you think you’re edgy and relevant, but you’re not.”
Admittedly, there are a handful of moderate chuckles throughout, and a couple of truly funny moments, but none that are particularly memorable. Even the funniest jokes are tepid and flat and forgettable. Which is too bad, because it starts with the best scene in the whole movie, one that, if they built from there, could have been the basis for a decent comedy.
The movie begins with Lloyd (Carrey) catatonic in a mental institution. Not surprising given as the first film is easily read as a road trip with a clinically depressed, borderline suicidal case and his possibly autistic sidekick. One of them was bound to end up in the loony bin. As he has every Wednesday for the last 20 years, Harry (Jeff Daniels) shows to talk to his unresponsive friend, only this time he has some bad news. A serious medical condition will prevent him from visiting for a while. This reveal causes Lloyd to break out of what has been a two-decade-long, prank on his best pal. That old chemistry from the first movie is back and in full effect, and for a moment you’re optimistic this may live up to your warm memories of Dumb and Dumber. But that pleasant feeling doesn’t last long.
In addition to being the high point of the whole movie, this is also and the closest you come to giving a shit about anyone involved. More of a waste than the long, downward slide of gags and nut shots—and I love a good nut shot—is the fact that there is zero emotional connection to back up any of it, absolutely none. What follows is a tedious, convoluted drive across the country—road trip part 2 everyone—so that Harry can meet the daughter he didn’t know he had and hopefully talk her out of a kidney.
Clocking in at 113 minutes—yes, Dumb and Dumber To is almost two full hours long—the pace takes constant detours into unnecessary asides and jokes that don’t land, like an entire sequence that exists solely so Harry and Lloyd can get slushies dumped down the front of their pants. There’s a lot of build up and very little payoff. Comedy is a craft, and there’s none on display here. Rob Riggle plays twins that exist primarily so Rob Riggle can be in this movie, and he’s totally misused. (Helpful hint: Rob Riggle is not intimidating to anyone.) You just feel bad that Kathleen Turner is in this, and her role consists of being a target for jokes about how old she’s gotten.
Dumb and Dumber To is a sequel that has been talked about for years, but it feels like that in the time it took for everyone to climb on board, the magic evaporated. The script feels like it’s been sitting on a shelf since 1994, and you wish there was anything even remotely memorable, good or bad, to cling to. Since day one, people have been asking “Why?” in regards to this, but it’s a question that bears repeating one last time: Why did this movie need to be made?