Nostalgia is a powerful tool, especially in the internet age. Networks and movie studios have recognized the monetary potential of this emotion, and have begun manipulating it for their own gain. Thus, projects like Arrested Development Season Four and Anchorman 2. Some of these ventures are driven by creator intent, while some feel like out-and-out cash grabs. It’s hard to determine which category Dumb and Dumber To falls into, but it doesn’t really matter, because either way the final product is bleak.
The movie opens in such a way to allow that absolutely nothing has happened to intellectually-deficient best friends Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) since the conclusion of 1994’s Dumb and Dumber, save for the passage of time. The movie picks right back up twenty years later, only now the two men have to travel across the country to track down Harry’s long-lost daughter (Rachel Melvin), in the hopes that she will donate the kidney that he desperately needs. They are unknowingly thwarted throughout by a pair of twins (Rob Riggle) and an aspiring black widow (Laurie Holden), who wish to aid and profit from the untimely passing of the young girl’s adoptive father (Steve Tom).
That’s a lot of plot for a movie that is really just a joke delivery machine. The movie is full of farcical wordplay, outrageous slapstick, casual bigotry, and referential asides. A good majority of the humor is mean-spirited, especially in the hands of Carrey’s Lloyd, who is not only dumb, but also an asshole. This tone is one reason why Dumb and Dumber was never a comedic cornerstone for me, along with most of the output from comedy auteurs Bobby and Peter Farrelly. It’s easy to be a funny jerk – it is a lot harder to be pleasant and still make people laugh.
But that’s a matter of personal preference, and you cannot really judge a comedy from that perspective. But you can look at the jokes themselves, although in this case “jokes” may be a strong word. Take for instance this line in which one of the two characters portrayed by Riggle (the twins thing is a really unnecessary aspect of the story – and not even in meta/Beerfest sort of way) calls a few off-screen men “Canadian douchebags.” That’s it. This is not a joke. It isn’t even a creative or playful use of the English language. It’s really just lazy. Even in the few instances where actually humor is brought to the screen, it is invariably undermined by non-stop repetition throughout the remainder of the film.
On the positive end of the spectrum, Carrey and Daniels commit completely to their characters. Neither Harry nor Lloyd is particularly likable, and the actors play that impeccably. Even after twenty years (and a prequel neither man touched) they can dive back into these idiots without missing a beat. And the Farrelly brothers squeeze a little maturation and pathos into the ending of the film as well, though that development seems to run counter to the rest of the film. I appreciated it, but I can see myself rolling my eyes at such a development had I really been enjoying the movie up to that point.
Dumb and Dumber To is essentially (and intentionally) the same movie as it’s predecessor – that seems to be the trend with comedy sequels these days. So if you have been eagerly awaiting a sequel for the last two decades, you’ll probably dig it. Ultimately the most enjoyable part of this movie for me was being able to sit down and watch it without investing anything at all emotionally or mentally. After eight days of difficult independent cinema it was nice to just toss one off. But that’s what I brought to the table. The single nicest thing that can be said about your movie should never be “I didn’t have to care about it.” There should always be some level of buy-in. Maybe the Farrelly brothers disagree. Dumb and Dumber To opens with a twenty-year-long practical joke. That’s all over the marketing. And perhaps that’s intentional; maybe the joke is on us.