Dumb & Dumber To (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

film dumb-dumber_smIt’s with mild amazement that I report Dumb & Dumber To isn’t a total bust; I laughed out loud a good half a dozen times over the course of the movie.

 

 

 

film dumb-dumber

Twenty years after the first Dumb & Dumber came out, is its audience still immature enough to enjoy a sequel? This is the sort of film where, if you were an adolescent when it was released, it was funny then and is still funny now, if only for the nostalgia factor. But it seems as if the only thing a sequel can do at this point is disappoint people: If it’s as broad and numbing as the first one, its audience will be too mature for it; if it plays the nostalgia card too hard, it’ll be too obvious; if it tries to be something it’s not, it’ll be fake.

With that in mind, it’s with mild amazement that I report Dumb & Dumber To isn’t a total bust. Now, don’t get excited—a whole, whole lot of jokes fall flat; stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ comedic chemistry seems to have dwindled in the intervening years. Also, Carrey acting broad (as he does here) isn’t aging very well, and his heart doesn’t seem to be in it besides. But still, I laughed out loud a good half a dozen times over the course of the movie, and at least once found myself smiling at a joke that in theory shouldn’t have worked. So, the movie meets some level of expectation, anyway.

The plot is structured in a way that intentionally mirrors the first film, which had Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas and Daniels’ Harry Dunne on a road trip from Providence, R.I., to Aspen, Colo. (or is it California?) to deliver a briefcase of which they don’t know the contents. In Dumb & Dumber To, Harry and Lloyd go on a road trip from Providence to El Paso to deliver a box of which they don’t know the contents. Also, we know that Harry has fathered a child with Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner in To; discussed but never seen in the original). The daughter, who lives in El Paso, has inspired a Mary Samsonite–level crush by Lloyd, based only on having seen her picture.

While it all seems familiar enough for it to appear predictable (especially if you’ve watched the first film recently, or still have it memorized from your childhood), the script, written by a gaggle of writers (including, but not limited to, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly with Bennett Yellin, the three of whom wrote the script for the original), deviates from the events of the original just enough to keep it from feeling like The Hangover 2. One thing they didn’t give up on, though, is the conspicuously “clever” names. In the original, Lloyd was infatuated with a girl named Mary (Lauren Holly, from whom it would be inadvisable to expect a cameo here); had they gotten married and she taken his name, she would have been named Mary Christmas. In To, Fraida Felcher’s daughter is named Fanny Felcher, in case you didn’t get the felching joke the first time around. But little Fanny was put up for adoption, and her adoptive parents renamed her Penny Pinchelow, which sounds like “penny pincher” until you start to piece together that the last name is supposed to sound like “pinch a loaf,” a detail that you will have figured out long before it’s a plot point. Which, yes, it is. Because of course it is.

I wouldn’t have thought the original film would still be making new adolescent fans now. If you revisit it, it has the reek of the ’90s; also the most common way to get it these days in its “unrated” form, which merely adds seven minutes of unfunny, deleted-for-a-good-reason scenes that only serve to drag it down. But earlier this year I was on a plane, seated behind two adolescent boys watching it on an iPad, and they were laughing their asses off. Maybe stupid movies age better than I would guess, and maybe the Dumb & Dumber For hinted at after the credits might become a reality after all. | Pete Timmermann

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