Here’s a pleasant surprise: Dumb and Dumber To is a success. This, of course, comes with some qualifications. As a sequel to 1994’s comedy cult classic, Dumb and Dumber, this new feature is a success. On its own, well, probably not so much.
Twenty years sounds like a tremendous gap between sequels – and it is, in fact, it’s up there with some of the all-time gaps, like Wall Street and Wall Street: My Money Is Very Tired (23 years), The Hustler and The Color of Money (26 years), and Tron and Tron: Jeff Bridges’ Face (28 years) – but Dumb and Dumber To’s film’s singular, unique ability to breathlessly (and, yes, often quite tastelessly) recapture the spirit and tone of the original film is what sets its apart from its big-gapped brethren. This film could have been made one year after the original, and it would likely play out in the exact same way. Directors (and two of six – six!! – writers) Peter and Bobby Farrelly have so keenly and cleverly refashioned the first film into a new feature, complete with full-bodied performances from stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, that Dumb and Dumber To will probably (one day) be hailed as a major achievement in sequel creation. And, no, that’s not a goof.
Despite its weirdly timeless – or, perhaps more accurately, decidedly 1994 – nature, Dumb and Dumber To picks up twenty years after the events of the first film. While Harry (Daniels) hasn’t changed much in the intervening decades (like, at all), Lloyd (Carrey) has been up to something a little different: living in a home for people who can’t care for themselves, still busted up over the loss of his beloved Mary Samonsite. Of course it’s all a gag, and when Lloyd finally reveals his long game, it almost helps Harry forget his own troubles: he needs a kidney transplant.
Harry and Lloyd may be world class morons, but they have a knack for falling into things at the right time, so when Harry discovers that he has a daughter (the wonderfully funny Rachel Melvin, who brings both total idiocy and complete charm to her role), the duo set out on a road trip to find her, reunite her with her dad, and – oops – ask her for a kidney. All of the beats from the first film are here: a journey, a road trip, a pair of idiots and the kind of mishaps that are designed for maximum guffaws, and although Dumb and Dumber To never tries to break out of the box of the original, that’s actually refreshing within this context.
The Farrellys haven’t modernized their film at all, and aside from one weirdly-placed Breaking Bad joke, little about the film is engineered to make it seem part of the current culture at all. That may sound like a problem, but it’s really not – Dumb and Dumber To is such a well-made sequel (emphasis on the “sequel”), one that really does honor what came before it, that it effectively voids any reason to make another one. Carrey may have been reticent to get into the franchise game for years, and it’s particularly amusing that this, his eventual foray into the traditional sequel game, is both an argument for and against such stuff.
Carrey is really at the top of his game here, and although Daniels keeps up, Carrey’s timing and rubber-faced mugging are on such a superior level that Dumb and Dumber To feels almost entirely like his own playground. The duo are both committed to the work – neither of them phones it in – and that dedication pushes the film into still better territory.
The Farrellys and their coterie of fellow writers have built some twists into the film, big gags that are broad and weird and totally in line with their previous feature. Still, its the humor that’s best, and there are at least five big comedic set pieces that will join the Farrelly’s best-of hall of fame. Like the original, there are also a number of throwaway gags and brief visual jokes that are treated with equal respect, even if their addition to the runtime is small. The Farrellys – and Carrey and Daniels – are never afraid to play the long game in service to a joke,
The Upside: Carrey and Daniels are fully committed to their roles, the film is never afraid to play the long game on big (and even sometimes little!) gags, there are at least five major comedic set pieces, it will undoubtedly please fans of the first film, it (mostly) avoids cheap pop culture bits and lame cameos.
The Downside: The third act is flat and mostly devoid of big laughs, the villains are poorly defined, some gross-out gags seem shoehorned in.
On the Side: The Farrellys were not involved with the 2003 prequel, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, and they effectively dismantle at least one piece of that feature in To: look for Harry’s family history to be refashioned early on. No, Mimi Rogers does not reprise her role from Dumb and Dumberer, but that’s all we’ll say.