In 1994, funnyman Jim Carrey was at his early cinematic peak. The loose-limbed, rubber-faced actor from FOX’s hit “In Living Color” had just starred in his first two major hit films, (1993’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and 1994’s The Mask) and teaming up with novice comedy filmmakers the Farrelly brothers was a stroke of sophomoric genius. Alongside veteran actor Jeff Daniels, these guys basically introduced the 90s “gross out” comedy with Dumb and Dumber, a movie that enthusiastically lived up to its title with jokes that were brain-dead and crass–absolutely the kind of thing no “intelligent” comedy fan would ever embrace.
It was awesome.
The gang reunites in Dumb and Dumber To, a movie that seems to exist solely for those involved. This is a movie that was probably more fun to make than it is to watch, and it is a bittersweet reminder for those of a certain age that the Clinton years are a long, long time ago. The comedy feels like the product of a bygone era, despite the fact that Carrey and Daniels still have an awful lot of chemistry as dim-witted buddies Lloyd and Harry, respectively.
Like the first film, Dumb and Dumber To centers on the two morons stumbling along an extended road trip, unwittingly thwarting attempts on their life. The hijinks start when Harry (Daniels) discovers that he needs a kidney and visits his parents’ home only to realize both that he’s adopted (he never noticed that his parents are Asian) and that he has a child by the legendary Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner); the (ahem) “sexually-liberated” former high school girlfriend referenced in the first film. Harry’s daughter, Penny (played with charm by Rachel Melvin of “Days of Our Lives” fame) has been adopted by a brilliant scientist who is also married to a conniving younger woman (Laurie Holden) who has been planning to kill him and take his fortune. Inexplicably, Lloyd and Harry are given a “billion-dollar” invention to take to a science conference cross-country that Penny is attending, with the devious wife and her dastardly lover (Rob Riggle) attempting to kill them the entire way.
The premise is as goofy as the first film, but where the original Dumb… channeled Carrey’s madcap energy and Daniels’ knack for slow goofball-ism; this movie seems to tread water for its entire running time. The jokes tend to be either corny references to the first movie (one crack about the “second-most annoying sound in the world” is especially eye-roll worthy) or the kind of crass humor that worked so well in the first one but feels forced this time around (there’s a gag involving an old lady in a nursing home that’s brazen but not at all funny.)
Also, it’s hard to recapture the glory of the gross-out 90s. That kind of humor is very much of that time; the Farrelly’s continued perfecting it with their woefully underrated second film Kingpin and their greatest film, There’s Something About Mary and there were other movies that clearly owed a debt to their style, from the more-sentimental 90s classic American Pie to forgettable crap like Say It Isn’t So. But since then, we’ve seen the passing of the torch to both the Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell-led “Frat Pack” movies of the early 2000s and the more recent boom of stoner comedies from guys like Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow. The snot and fart jokes in Dumb and Dumber To don’t feel retro, they just feel outdated.
That’s not to say there are no laughs to be had. Carrey and Daniels are clearly having a ball with this idiotic material, especially Daniels, who seems to relish the opportunity to go full-jackass following his uber-serious and Emmy-winning turn on HBOs media drama “Newsroom.” But it feels like watching an old band get back together for an unnecessary reunion show; where it could’ve been triumphant, it just feels by-the-numbers and uninspired. This movie will likely be a hit (and God knows, Jim Carrey needs one), but for anyone who was a fan of the original, it’s best to lower those expectations a bit and just reminisce about the good ol’ days.
The 90s were a long time ago. And this movie only makes that more crystal clear.