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December 17, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by James Joseph


I wasn’t even 10 when the first Dumb & Dumber was released in 1994. Twenty years ago, Jim Carrey was the hero of a generation: he was Ace Ventura and The Mask, and every kid at school imitated his catchphrases at every occasion. We still didn’t know about the awful films that would come in the following couple of years (before he found his redemption with The Truman Show), and leave an indelible mark on his career.

His co-star was Jeff Daniels, who also appeared in Speed, but didn’t have a fraction of Carrey’s fame. Daniels reportedly agreed to get involved in Dumb & Dumber for $50,000 (while Carrey’s salary was around $7 million, nearly half of the whole film’s budget), just because he was keen to star in a comedy. By pairing Carrey (Lloyd) and Daniels (Harry), and having them perform a bunch of idiotic stunts, the then newcomers Bobby and Peter Farrelly created one of the most iconic slapstick comedies of the ‘90s, and achieved an incredible financial success. I’m not sure I would find it as funny now, but it still is significantly better than its simple-minded and slack sequel, Dumb and Dumber To.

Many things have changed since 1994: the Farrelly brothers directed a dozen more films with increasingly worse results, The Three Stooges (2012) and their segments in the much hated Movie 43 (2013) being perfect examples of their worst failures. Jim Carrey alternated various comedies with dramatic performances, often with good results (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on The Moon to name but a few). Jeff Daniels, on the other hand, starred in a series of consistently mediocre features, as a quick glance at his Rotten Tomatoes page will prove. Regardless of the wrong choices he made in the past, his appearance in Looper (2012), and the Emmy he recently won for his role in acclaimed TV series The Newsroom, show that he’s a solid actor with a lot of potential.

When the news of Dumb and Dumber To’s release spread, millions of eyebrows raised in incredulity. Why on Earth would Carrey and Daniels go back to those ridiculous roles? They had too much to lose to risk being dragged back into potentially career-wrecking parts. This sequel attracted little favour from the very beginning; it will be interesting to see the box office results, but nothing will change the fact that, bias aside, Dumb and Dumber To is the huge disappointment everyone feared it would be. This is mostly due to Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s inability to understand the way comedy evolved in the last twenty years – although I feel that most of the film’s gags would have still fallen flat in the ‘90s.


The story follows Dumb and Dumber’s road adventure formula: Lloyd and Harry must bring the proverbial MacGuffin from A to B, while chased by a deadly gang of criminals. People falling on the floor, fart jokes and quid-pro-quo gags follow at will in a tiring, uninspired and unoriginal fashion; even plot points and complementary characters are dumbed down, as if Lloyd and Harry themselves had written the screenplay on a lazy afternoon. Is this ingenious meta-cinema, or plain ineptitude? Despite their comic verve, Carrey and Daniels aren’t remotely as funny as they were 20 years ago. Seeing these two 50-year-olds grab their asses and laugh hysterically creates a sense of unease, even when their jokes actually manage to crack a laugh.

Dumb and Dumber To reflects a sad trend of the recent past: directors and studios exploiting old successes to create (often unneccessary) sequels or prequels. Old ideas, however, don’t always work when merely reiterated without a serious creative process behind them. Fans of the original films are learning it the hard way; let’s hope directors and actors (but especially producers) understand it soon too.

Dumb and Dumber To
is released in UK cinemas on December 19th.

Davide Prevarin