Once upon a time, the Farrelly Brothers constructed sight gags capable of reaching new heights (or depths, as the case may be). Right about the time Brett Favre was murdering comedy in There’s Something About Mary, however, they abandoned their bread and butter in favor of a “comic spaghetti” approach. Meaning, they throw as many gags at the wall as possible and see what sticks. Thanks to the comic chemistry of Carrey and Daniels, Dumb and Dumber To is just sticky enough to justify its existence.
It’s almost impossible to remember what a sensation Dumb and Dumber was back in 1994. Not only was it the driving force that introduced Jim Carrey to the world (along with The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that very same year!), it signaled the emergence of a new comedy paradigm. People had grown weary of the Zucker/Abrahams spoof-fests and were looking for something a bit edgier. Luckily, Bobby and Peter Farrelly were more than happy to ascend the comedy throne with their special brand of gross-out, moronic hijinks.
And now we get the sequel that very few people thought would really happen, and even fewer thought was really necessary. It follows the further adventures of our favorite simpletons, Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), as they embark upon a cross-country trek to find Harry’s “bastard” daughter. Fueling the search is Harry’s need for a kidney transplant, and the director’s need for lots of traveling montages.
Obviously, Dumb and Dumber To follows nearly the same narrative trajectory as Dumb and Dumber. The boys must transport an item that dangerous people are chasing; they survive assassination attempts through sheer stupidity; they resolve everything in a final confrontation where Harry and Lloyd “learn” the value of their friendship. Hey, if something works, you stick with it, right?
To their credit, the Farrellys and their stable of co-writers don’t recycle the gags. Yes, we get all the classics that we need to see, such as Carrey liking things “A lot” or making the second most irritating sound in the world, but the other gags are re-introduced only to be turned on their head. The dog-mobile is back, for instance, but it’s showing the strain of 20 years of neglect. Lloyd is again pining for a woman who prefers Harry, but this time it’s Harry’s gorgeous (and rock stupid) daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin). The two travelers unwittingly take another assassin along for the ride, but this time the assassin (Rob Riggle) is a human chameleon with his own brand of immature justice. At a time when most comedy sequels are nothing more than tepid re-hashes of the original (we’re looking at you, Hangover), it’s nice to see a movie capable of being referential without becoming a carbon copy.
The jokes fly fast and furious. From verbal malapropos (“He has encrusted this task to me!”) to gross-out gags (including an old lady’s long-neglected… er… nevermind), the Farrelly’s prove, once again, they will sink to any depth to mine a laugh. There are at least half a dozen gut-busters in Dumb and Dumber To, with plenty of chuckles in between. More importantly, Carrey and Daniels effortlessly re-capture the idiotic magic of their characters, which keeps a smile on your face even when you’re groaning over a horrible pun. There aren’t any gags that will survive the next 20 years, but there are several that will have you chuckling the next day.
When the Farrelly Brothers miss on a joke, however, they sometimes miss badly. Their delivery can be inexcusably lazy, which often results in racial and gender stereotypes. A scene with Harry’s adoptive parents, a delightful geriatric Asian couple, borders on racism. They also delight a bit too much in trashing the character of Kathleen Turner, who has clearly let herself go over the last decade. The few inspired set pieces and gags make you wish the Farrelly boys had left the lamer jokes back on the playground.
Ultimately, Dumb and Dumber To is a sequel that rewards fans of the original for their devotion. It’s not a good movie by any standard, but it wins you over with its unabashed foolishness. It’s like catching up with two old friends. Two very old, very stupid friends. You’ll probably hate yourself later, but it’s okay to laugh along with Harry and Lloyd.