Dumb and Dumber Than Ever
by Matthew Cabe
One of the many ingredients that made Dumb and Dumber great was the film’s soundtrack. From Apache Indian’s “Boom Shak-A-Lack” playing throughout the unforgettable opening credit sequence to Deee-Lite’s cover of “You Sexy Thing” ushering in Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry’s (Jeff Daniels) borrowed wealth, each song blended nicely into the background and set the perfect mood for whatever antics occurred on-screen.
But about a quarter of the way through Dumb and Dumber To one song from that soundtrack kept coming to mind. It’s performed by a band called The Sons and it starts (in the original) as Harry’s Shaggin’ Wagon races across a Pennsylvania highway after their first unpleasant encounter with the now-infamous Sea Bass (who does show up again if you’re willing to wait). The song is “Too Much of a Good Thing” and it serves as an apt metaphor for how I felt while watching Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s long-awaited sequel to their 1994 classic.
The Farrelly brothers best films (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary) defined comedy in the 90s. They were to that decade what Todd Phillips (Old School and The Hangover trilogy) or Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) were to the 2000s. And it shows. Dumb and Dumber To feels anachronistic and forced. That’s no new development though; everything following 2000’s Me, Myself, and Irene has an increasingly outdated undercurrent that brings up uncomfortable questions concerning the validity of their former brilliance.
The problem is the Farrelly’s persistent regression toward a reliance on gross-out humor. The scatology is present in Dumb and Dumber, of course, but that comedy’s foundation is the titanic stupidity of the main characters. How many bottles Lloyd can pee into before a cop (Harland Williams) inevitably mistakes the urine for beer or how sufficiently Harry can destroy Mary Swanson’s (Lauren Holly) toilet garner big laughs for sure, but Lloyd screaming, “We landed on the moon!” as he exits a hotel bar or Harry insisting, “The French are assholes.” when Lloyd propositions a road trip to Aspen are just as funny and showcase the real reason why the movie is so damn funny, which is that these two buddies are the absolute dumbest human beings on Earth.
What’s paradoxical is that they are even shamelessly dumber in Dumb and Dumber To. Frighteningly dumber. Yet the laughs are not nearly as consistent because their deepened stupidity is displayed more in moments of disgusting physical pain rather than in moments of blissful ignorance.
A good example involves Harry trying to yank out Lloyd’s catheter after Lloyd reveals he’s been faking a mental breakdown for nearly 20 years. This occurs in the first five minutes of the film and it’s not funny (mainly because it was already effectively done four years ago in Hot Tub Time Machine).
I don’t want to mislead, however; there are instances in Dumb and Dumber To that induce uproarious laughter. A scene in which Lloyd and Harry briefly reclaim Harry’s Shaggin’ Wagon is on par with most anything in the original film. But they are few and far between. Every gag that works is preceded and followed by a slew that fall completely, uncomfortably flat.
What’s worse is that this new installment relies far too heavily on the humor of its predecessor. Fabled one-liners (e.g. “I like it a lot.”) are simply repeated and you find yourself laughing at a memory as opposed to what was just presented. The plot is similar, too. There’s a package to be delivered, a road trip, incompetent bad guys who want to kill the heroes, a love triangle that calls their friendship into question, undercover FBI agents, etc. etc. The only difference really is a strong sense that Lloyd and Harry somehow became aware of how incredibly dumb they are and decided to just embrace it fully.
The result is a melancholy understanding that more often than not lightning doesn’t strike twice. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels try their damnedest to recreate their former glory, which might be part of the problem, while everyone else (audience included) is forced to merely look on in bewilderment. Rob Riggle, who is funny in his own right, is one glaring waste. Kathleen Turner as Freta Felcher is another. The weight this time around rests solely on the shoulders of Carrey and Daniels, and the resulting collapse is painfully obvious.
There’s a few lines in “Too Much of a Good Thing”—that song I mentioned earlier—that go, “Baby, I got feelings old and strong. I did not think they’d last this long. Tell me why your light keeps turning on.” Comparatively, our feelings for the old certainly are strong; they’re why this sequel exists in the first place, and they’ve endured a two decade wait for replenishment. But Dumb and Dumber To offers very little that will satisfy an apparent need for more dumb or strengthen a waning belief that the Farrelly brothers can still be relevant. If nothing else, however, it turns the original’s light back on and unwittingly makes it shine all the brighter.