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Twenty years is a long time to stay faithful to a pleasure as disposable as Dumb and Dumber, the aptly titled 1994 debut of Peter and Bobby Farrelly. A comedy relying on the eager dumb-upsmanship of well-matched stars Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey (the latter enjoying a blockbuster year, leaping from TV to features including this, The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), the picture pushed the limits of innocent vulgarity so successfully it spawned a short-lived cartoon and a widely maligned prequel. Recognized for their distinctive sensibility, the Farrellys soon made the endearingly goofy Kingpin and their magnum opus There’s Something About Mary before reaching the point of diminishing returns, where they’ve been for more than 15 years. Going back to the well was, perhaps, inevitable. Answering the prayers of no moviegoer we know is Dumb and Dumber To, a mostly mirthless outing that may ride fans’ loyalty to receipts larger than their recent efforts but can’t hope to match the first film’s profitability.
Carrey and Daniels return as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, who have essentially been in suspended animation for two decades, Lloyd pretending to be in a vegetative state while Harry made daily visits to care for him in the hospital. After that stunt ends, Harry reveals his own medical condition: He needs a kidney replacement. Just smart enough to weasel out of offering to be the donor, Lloyd convinces Harry he has to find a blood relative. After learning that Harry’s long-lost love Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) had his child without his knowledge, they set out to find that daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), in a road trip that is, like nearly everything else here, an awful lot like the one they took 20 years ago.
Considering the rare, klutzy ways in which the filmmakers attempt to update the new film — for instance, a Breaking Bad reference whose celebrity cameo will amuse only those who know about it already — it’s almost a relief how much they rely on the original for material. There’s the blind kid with the dead bird; the sex fantasy interrupted by auto parts; the unlikely vehicle used for interstate travel. Some of the self-plagiarism goes wrong: In a stunt employing the brothers’ terror of aging women’s bodies, they rely on a gross-out so unoriginal it’s the exact opposite of the ones (think of Ben Stiller and hair gel) whose originality ensured we’d remember them forever.
As in the first film, the fellas are being chased by killers and don’t realize it: As they head toward a TED-like conference where Penny is accepting an award for her adoptive dad, they’re carrying a package Penny’s adoptive stepmother and her secret lover desperately want. That boyfriend and his twin brother (both played by Rob Riggle) are responsible for some of the film’s biggest laughs, and Riggle’s juicing-up of rote plotlines is perhaps the only way in which the sequel outshines its predecessor.
Hilarity is hard to come by, though. While it’s amusing to see Harry impersonating a genius at the science gathering, making stupid remarks that are misinterpreted for piercing insight, or watching an exasperated Turner chide the duo for their cluelessness, these are small compensations for overall staleness. When the gags a movie is most confident in — the ones it uses three or four times, as if they were sure things — involve pushing unsuspecting pedestrians into a bush or riffing on “Bond, James Bond,” something’s wrong in the yuk factory.
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
Costume designer: Karen Patch
Editor: Steven Rasch
Music: Empire of the Sun
Casting director: Rick Montgomery
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes
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