Usually, when a movie is a smash hit and generates lots of devoted fans, a sequel is two to three years down the road. If the movie is part of a huge franchise (like “Harry Potter” or “Paranormal Activity’) the next film in the series could be as little as a year away as these movies are often shot concurrently. “Dumb and Dumber To” is not like any of the above as the first film was released in December, 1994. Now, almost 20 years later, we pay a much delayed return visit to those lovable numbskulls Harry and Lloyd. Was the two decade delay worth the wait?
Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) has been in a nursing home for the last 20 years. He went into a catatonic state following the rejection of his true love Mary Samsonite. Each Wednesday, Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) visits Lloyd bringing him candy, talking to him and even changing his adult diaper. On this visit, Harry tells Lloyd he may not be back for a while as he has a medical condition that will require attention. As Harry is walking away, Lloyd begins to stir. Harry grabs Lloyd and encourages him to speak. Lloyd then yells “Gotcha!” in Harry’s face saying his condition has been a 20 year long practical joke. Both boys have a good laugh at that. Back at their apartment, unchanged in 20 years, Harry tells Lloyd he needs a new kidney or he’ll drown in his own pee. Lloyd suggests they visit Harry’s parents to see if they would be able to give him a kidney. Harry is reluctant since he hasn’t seen his parents in 20 years but agrees and the pair jumps on a bike and ride the 150 feet down the street to Harry’s parent’s house. Harry asks about getting a kidney when his parents, both very Asian, tell Harry he’s adopted. Disappointed, Harry and Lloyd leave with a box of Harry’s mail that’s been collecting for him. There they find a postcard from Harry’s old girlfriend saying she’s pregnant and Harry should call as soon as possible. Lloyd suggests they find Harry’s kid and see if he or she can donate a kidney. The postcard is over 20 years old. Harry doesn’t know where the woman lives but remembers he met her at the funeral home run by her family. There they see her for the first time in over two decades and time hasn’t been kind. Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) doesn’t look anything like the hot young girl of their memories. She proves she’s Fraida by showing them the smiley face tattoo just above her backside that, over time, has become a frown. Fraida tells the boys she gave her baby girl that she named Fanny up for adoption. She regretted the decision almost immediately but by then it was too late. Fraida wrote the girl a letter a few years ago but it was returned unopened with a note written on the envelope telling her not to contact her again. Thinking things are hopeless Lloyd tells Harry he should just give up until Fraida shows them a picture she found on social media. The young woman, now named Penny Pinchelow (Rachel Melvin) is beautiful and Lloyd is immediately smitten, telling Harry they should find her using the address on the letter. The boys then set off on an adventure that takes them from their hometown in Rhode Island all the way to El Paso, Texas. Along the way, they’ll encounter murderous twin brothers, an evil stepmother and a convention center full of nerds.
“Dumb and Dumber To” essentially tells the same story as “Dumb and Dumber” but this time the emphasis more on Harry than Lloyd. Their journey takes them across the country in various odd vehicles, encountering numerous individuals of questionable character and always managing to barely escape danger by using their complete lack of wits. Substitute a briefcase full of money with a small, mysterious box containing a billion-dollar invention and you’re ready to go. The story is largely a retread and unfortunately so is many of the jokes. The problem is this time the Farrelly Brothers seem to have lost their nerve for the crudest jokes that were the funniest from the original film leaving this sequel feeling tired an unnecessary.
Neither Jim Carrey nor Jeff Daniels deserves any blame for the lackluster humor as they are giving their all to the characters and the story (such as it is). Both men re-inhabit their characters with the same sort of abandon they displayed in the original. Carrey, who doesn’t seem to worry about looking stupid, dives head first into Lloyd and pulls out all his rubbery face moves and wild gesticulations. Daniels, kind of the straight man of the pair, is given the job of selling the emotional context of the story as he’s dealing with learning he has a grown daughter. Harry feels guilty about not being there for her and he worries he’ll be rejected when she finds out he needs a kidney. But none of this stops Harry from diving head first into all the madness the pair encounters. Sadly, the madness is pretty tame in comparison to the first film.
The rest of the supporting cast isn’t given much to do but either look confused or roll their eyes at Harry and Lloyd’s antics. Rob Riggle is largely wasted in the dual role of Travis and his twin brother, Special Forces Captain Lippincott. Riggle seems to be somewhat muzzled as his usual energy is missing here. He’s never allowed to cut loose and provide his characters with any originality or uniqueness. Rachel Melvin as Penny is dumb as a stump. She’s cute and wide-eyed and innocent and couldn’t reason her way out of a wet paper bag. The character is just a rehash of Harry and Lloyd and it doesn’t really work. Penny talks kind of like Shirley Temple in her early movies. It’s a bit annoying and you just want her to shut up. Kathleen Turner comes out better as Fraida Felcher. She seems to have impeccable comic timing and turns her brief screen time into scene stealing moments. She should have gone on the road trip with Harry and Lloyd but sadly she disappears for most of the middle section of the film. It seems like a wasted opportunity to put Turner’s deep, raspy voice to good use.
The story tacks on a crime subplot just like the first film. It is so outlandish that it never really holds our attention and makes us wonder how it will turn out. The payoff doesn’t do much to justify its existence and once again mimics the first film. The script, written by the Farrelly Brothers along with four others, follows the first movie pretty much beat for beat. It never tries to expand beyond the parameters of the first film and plays it safe by simply repeating the same formula. That could have worked had it been funnier.
“Dumb and Dumber To” is rated PG-13 for language, crude and sexual humor, partial nudity and some drug references. It wouldn’t be a Farrelly Brothers movie if there were plenty of poop, pee and fart jokes. There are also a few crude sexual references. The partial nudity refers to the several times we see male butt crack or full butt. There’s also a brief scene with Penny in her panties and underwear. The drug references are early in the film in regards to Harry’s new roommate who make crystal meth. Foul language is scattered and the film uses its one ratings-allowed “F-bomb.”
“Dumb and Dumber To” is funny…about 20 percent of the time. There are some big laughs but they are so few and far between that I grew impatient waiting for the next truly funny bit. Many of the gags in the trailer (the catheter bit, the elderly lady in the nursing home) are there and somewhat expanded upon, plus a couple of other scenes, one involving a barking dog Lloyd encounters and one where the boys try to get free beers at a convention of geniuses, work well and produce some serious laughs. It’s too bad that after 20 years there aren’t more gut busters. “Dumb and Dumber To” is mostly just dumb.
“Dumb and Dumber To” gets two stars out of five.
This week, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1” is the only new release. I’ll see it or maybe something at the art house theatre like “Birdman” or the directorial debut of Jon Stewart “Rosewater.” Check back next week to find out.