Want to know the difference 20 years makes? Two decades ago, Twitter was still 12 years away, Facebook a mere ten. Taylor Swift was four. Justin Bieber had just been born. The Matrix had yet to be released, and the only success Marvel could muster was the original Fantastic Four. If you live to be 80, two decades is one fourth of your life, and if you were a new parent at the start of 1994, your kid is either in college or moved back in with you by now.
Thomas Wolfe wrote the famous book You Can’t Go Home Again way back in 1940, but its titular sentiment still applies, even today. You really can’t recapture lightning in a bottle. About the best you can do is set-up your current situation to mimic the past as closely as possible, thereby hoping that, via karma or some unspoken magic, you can once again taste the fruits of your previous labors. That was clearly the plan for the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber To.
A sequel to a comedy phenom from the Clinton Administration, we are given the opportunity to see Jim Carrey (now 52) and costar Jeff Daniels (soon to be 60) doing their single digit IQ shtick, and nothing much has changed. Granted, the former is no longer the formidable funnyman he once was, his record setting salaries are now reserved for comic book superheroes while he slowly transitions into a character actor.
Similarly, Daniels has seen his career swing wildly between the good (Fly Away Home, Pleasantville, HBO’s The Newsroom) and the awful (RV, My Favorite Martian). Truth be told, it’s Peter and Bobby Farrelly who need this more than their high profile stars. They haven’t been relevant since Jack Black turned Shallow Hal into a statement on body shaming and tolerance.
Since 2001, the Farrellys have flopped time and time again. Stuck on You (with Matt Damon and Greg Kinear) was an attempt to bring their buffoonery up to the A-list. It didn’t work. Fever Pitch denied them RomCom relevance, while The Heartbreak Kid remains one of the worst remakes ever. After the horrors of Hall Pass and the paltry pleasantries of their attempt at recreating the Three Stooges, the once masters of gross-out comedy are desperate for another shot at scatological relevance.
Unfortunately, the subgenre they jumpstarted has long passed them by, taken up by Judd Apatow and his protégés and pushed beyond the limits that even they couldn’t imagine. In 1994, they seemed dangerous. In 2014, their attempts at recapturing the past are depressing.
We meet up with Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) during the former’s frequent visit to an insane asylum. There, the latter has been holed up, apparently in some manner of psychological distress over losing Mary “Samsonite”. Turns out, it’s just an elaborate 20-year-long prank, which is advantageous, since Harry has a bad kidney and needs a transplant.
Hoping his parents can help, he soon learns that he has a daughter with former town tramp Friada Felcher (Kathleen Turner). She, in turn, tells them that the girl (Rachel Melvin) was adopted by a famous scientist (Steve Tom). When they finally make it to the doc’s estate, they learn that he is sick, his wife (Laurie Holden) is working with the maintenance man (Rob Riggle) to kill him and get his money, and the now 22-year-old is at a Tech Conference in El Paso. So it’s time to hit the highway and save the day via stupidity.
Yes, Dumb and Dumber To is another road movie, another random series of events that rise and fall on the inspirations contained within the six-man script (yes, this mediocrity took a sextet of writers to create). There are no real references to the animated series that resulted from Dumb and Dumber‘s success or the equally uninspired attempt at a prequel (2003’s Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd), and the callbacks to the first film (the Mutt Cutts van, Billy the Blind Kid) get a single punchline before we move along.
Even the current stuff is curbed so that Carrey and Daniels can chew up the scenery. Turner, looking a lot worse for wear, is given little to do except react to the guys’ goofball antics, and the rest of the science fair set-up sees wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity. Only Rachel Melvin stands out, doing a dead on impression of Carrey’s Lloyd in a girl’s guise.
The crudities also suffer, thanks to the passage of time. A hearse full of farts? Carrey digitally “manipulating” an old lady? A young girl’s first menstruation? These are all fodder for the Farrelly’s sight gags — emphasis on the last word in that sentence — and yet they no longer wield the power of previous off-color jokes.
Instead, there’s a bit of weird nostalgia, as if going back and seeing where such over the top material got its basis buffers our sense of shock and outrage. In the original film, Harry had a bout of diarrhea (thanks to Lloyd’s underhanded actions) which resulted in Daniels imitating the bowel issue for several surreal minutes. A decade later, Kevin Smith simply showed an adult actress shit on someone during Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
The one guaranteed thing that comes with the passage of time is perspective. There are generations today that never grew up in a world with an arms race, analog technology, or a Berlin Wall. For them, the original Dumb and Dumber is a VHS to DVD memory, a seminal moment in their cinematic reckoning. For everyone else, this will be exactly what it isA a 20 years too late sequel with some sporadically funny stuff measured out across an ever decreasing level of interest.
Carrey and Daniels are doing fine in 2014. The Farrellys? Their time has long since come and gone.