The sequel to the Farrelly Brothers’ 1994 “Dumb & Dumber” is at hand — “Dumb and Dumber II.” No wait, that’s too classy a title so it’s “Dumb and Dumber Two” and, no, that’s not right either. It’s actually “Dumb and Dumber To.”
Huh, that makes no sense … oh, I get it — the guys don’t know the difference between Two, Too and To.
Well, I can’t say it’s been worth the wait. Like most sequels this is really a remake with the same gags proliferating the same road-movie formula only, wow, do these guys look older. The knucklehead gags aren’t quite so funny when middle-aged actors perform them.
Those gags haven’t aged well either but as sequel/remakes go this is okay. You do miss the physical clowning from the original and, of course, the comedy was fresh then.
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were truly well paired as a couple of lame-brains out to prove that their collective I.Q. was every bit the equal of the Three Stooges.
“God’s got a pretty warped sense of humor,” Daniel’s Harry Dunne remarks to Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas in the new film. I’m not sure God deserves any blame though as Pete and Bobby Farrelly load this comedy team with enough intellectual, emotional and social challenges to defy even the cosmic order of things.
As I reveal in my forthcoming biography of John Hughes, to be published next year, “Dumb and Dumber” began life as a John Hughes script. (He always liked a pair of bumbling idiots as secondary characters although never before leads.) Hughes later abandoned the script and sold it to the Farrellys, insisting his name come off the script, which was then rewritten.
This became the basis for the young filmmakers’ debut picture, leading to “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary” and, in a sense, all those R-rated, bad-taste comedies by Judd Apatow, David Dobkin, Seth Rogen and company.
The “Dumb/Dumber” films are a loose collection of gags with the connective tissue of a road trip with the vague goal of finding a girl and delivering a dubious package. Unlike, say, the comedy teams of Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy, which created a daft unity of extreme opposites, Lloyd and Harry simply strive to out-dumb one another.
In other words, two peas in an unfortunate pod.
The new film finds the two in a 20-year state of suspended animation with Lloyd pretending to be in a coma, all for the sake of an “awesome” gag — one that is given away in the movie’s trailers. Harry then reveals he needs a kidney transplant so he must find a blood relative.
This leads to his long-lost love, Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), who had his child without his knowledge only to give her up for adoption. That daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), is headed for a TED-like conference in El Paso only she forgot to take a package her Nobel-laureate adopted father gave to her containing something that supposedly will benefit all mankind.
They are accompanied by Penny’s evil stepmother’s boyfriend (Roy Riggle) who means to do away with them and steal the valuable package himself. All assassination attempts go appropriately haywire, of course.
Penny appears to be as thick as Harry, an apple that clearly fell not far from its tree. But later developments cast doubt on Harry’s paternity so this gag eventually makes no sense.
The screenplay, this time credited to Sean Anders, John Morris, Bennett Yellin and Mike Cerrone along with the Farrellys, is generally uninspired. It does contain enough solid comic bits to insure laughs throughout, however.
What’s mostly missing is heart. The original film, for all its dumbness, took a certain tender view of the lame brains. Their clowning was that of goofy children in a benign game of one-upmanship. Here the gags are a tad coarser and the attitude toward the characters less charitable.
One also senses a certain desperation on the part of the Farrellys and Carrey, none of whom has had much success of late. The odds don’t look good though that “Dumb and Dumber To” will reverse that stagnation.
Opens: November 14, 2014 (Universal Pictures)
Production companies: Red Granite Pictures, Conundrum Entertainment
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Steve Tom, Kathleen Turner
Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Screenwriters: Sean Anders, John Morris, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Mike Cerrone
Producers: Charles B. Wessler, Bradley Thomas, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland
Executive producers: Brad Krevoy, Steve Stabler, Marc S. Fischer, David Koplan, Danny Dimbort, Christian Mercuri
Director of photography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Music: Empire of the Sun
Costume designer: Karen Patch
Editor: Steven Rasch
PG-13 rating, 109 minutes