Based on the historical evidence, 1994 was the year that America embraced stupidity as a desirable state. It gave us two absurdly popular movies enshrining this idea — the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber and Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. The main thing I can say in favor of the former is that at least it wasn’t festooned with Oscars and taken as profound. Then again, I found it sufficiently disheartening that Dumb and Dumber was considered hysterically funny. Now I understand that it’s called a comedy classic. One critic has even called the original “arguably the greatest comedy of all time.” (Take that Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, etc. Too bad those also-rans never thought of massive diarrhea gags.) OK, yes, I thought the original was absolute rubbish, and I was not looking forward to this 20-year reunion film. (Everyone concerned pretends that the 2003 prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd never happened, which is easier to do if you never sat through it.) My greatest fears were confirmed for a punishing 110 minutes of flatulence, diarrhea, sub-Leo Gorcey malapropisms, infantile sex gags and gross-out jokes that are gross without the impediment of actually being funny.
I feel it is only fair to note that the reasonably well-attended 2 p.m. show I caught at The Carolina was mostly comprised of people who apparently do believe the original is “arguably the greatest comedy of all time.” From the time that Harry (Jeff Daniels) proceeded to pull out Lloyd’s (Jim Carrey) catheter until the ending credits, they were in hysterics — especially the ten-year-old sitting in front of me. Of course, unlike the strangely silent people in my group, they presumably wanted to be there. On the other hand, two of us had to be there, and the other two were ill-advisedly providing moral support. Am I saying the audience was wrong? No, not at all — merely that they were the target audience, and we were not. Nothing is as subjective as comedy.
It’s probably futile to try to catalog everything I found wrong with the movie — and frankly impossible within my word limit. Except for the fact that it’s far worse and far more obnoxious, Dumb and Dumber To reminds me of that last “Road” picture, The Road to Hong Kong (1962), where a clearly too old Bing Crosby (smart enough to retire to character roles in the aftermath) and Bob Hope tried to pretend they were still young enough to pull off the kind of thing that worked in the 1940s. (And I should note that when I was nine I thought it was great.) The same dynamic is at work here — two guys trying to repeat a formula that worked when they were young, but which is now kind of creepy. And repeat it they do. Even the supposedly transgressive things — like a character named Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) — are just recycled from the original. The biggest change is the sense of desperation from the Farrelly Brothers and Jim Carrey in need of the hit that has lately eluded them.
The plot — all about tracking down Harry’s purported daughter (Rachel Melvin) in the hopes of getting Harry a kidney transplant — isn’t exactly inspired, but with all its embellishments, there sure is a lot of it. This is not a good thing in itself, but far worse is the fact that this is mostly a sour and mean-spirited movie filled with characters wholly lacking in charm. Yeah, everyone — including poor Kathleen Turner — seems very game about it all, but it’s a lot of effort — and mugging — for very little return. The Farrellys — hardly the last word in stylish filmmaking at their best — have crafted (if that is the word) a shapeless, sloppy mess. Judging by the inevitable outtakes during the ending credits, they — and the other four writers and the ad-libbing cast — threw everything and the kitchen sink at the wall. Since none of it actually stuck, they apparently just used whatever floor-sweepings they found. In its favor … well, it’s better than Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, but I’ve had better dental visits than that. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references.