Jim Carrey Reborn In "Dumb And Dumber To"

A decade is an eternity in Hollywood, more than enough time to bury a once promising career or stop a would-be franchise dead in its tracks. Two decades? Perpetuity.

When “Dumb And Dumber” hit theaters in December 1994, Bill Clinton was two years into his first term as US President, Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” had just hit home video, and a rubber-faced 32 year-old comedian named Jim Carrey was in the process of being minted a comedy god. The years that followed were kind. From “Liar Liar” to “The Truman Show” to “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,” the actor saw a historic run of both critical and commercial successes that afforded him the luxury of a largely sequel-free career. Until now.

Without a big hit since 2003’s “Bruce Almighty,” it seems a no-brainer that the former clown prince of Hollywood would book a return trip to the spotlight. And how better to do that than reprise his most beloved role, scripted and directed by its equally out-of-date creators, the Farrelly brothers (“There’s Something About Mary”)? Throw in a willing Jeff Daniels, in the midst of filming HBO’s aggressively adequate “The Newsroom,” and something that once seemed like a lose-lose proposition becomes absolute gravy.

Wiped clean from the expectations that come with following up a genre classic – one doused in two decades of nostalgia – “Dumb And Dumber To” is a delight, every bit as shaggy as its predecessor and nearly as funny. Sans rose-colored glasses, the original remains a loosely plotted, inherently hollow piece of slapstick anchored by some ingenious gags and two inspired, sporadically brilliant performances. It’s a thrill just to see Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels) again, old friends reunited – audience included.

“Dumb And Dumber To” begins with chip-toothed, “pumpkin pie hair-cutted freak” Lloyd wallowing in a decades-long catatonic state. Hangdog, mop-topped Harry has remained as loyal a friend as ever, regularly visiting his institutionalized pal. Upon the sudden realization that Lloyd has been enacting an elaborate, painstaking, twenty-year prank on his best buddy, the two imbeciles agree that it was a good one. And we’re off.

Right off the bat, the Farrelly brothers erase 2003’s “Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd,” the universally maligned prequel that featured none of the original cast and crew. Harry – inexplicably in need of a kidney transplant – visits an Asian couple that we soon discover are his estranged parents. As Lloyd excitedly eats peanut butter out of a jar, Harry is gently let down with the belated news that he was adopted, and therefore not a match for their kidneys. But in collecting years’ worth of mail from his childhood home, Harry discovers that he has a twenty-three year-old daughter via Freida Felcher, the sultry sexpot briefly mentioned in the original film.

Kathleen Turner (“Body Heat”) makes a droll appearance as Felcher, a good sport in the face of numerous “remember how hot she used to be?” jokes, setting the duo on a journey that lovingly mirrors their previous road trip. Once more they cross the country in the name of love – Harry to find the “fruit of his looms,” Lloyd because he’s all hot and bothered by a photograph of Penny (Rachel Melvin), Harry’s alleged spawn.

Laurie Holden (AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) and Rob Riggle (“21 Jump Street”) support as the pic’s token villains, merely setting the table for the script’s increasingly absurd jokes that necessarily one-up each other’s grossness. The Farrellys and a spate of co-writers knowingly balance references to the past with all-new gags, with the picture’s greatest pleasures coming purely from watching Carrey and Daniels work. It’s an absolute joy to see Lloyd Christmas again, and Carrey seems impossibly revitalized. Daniels is nearly as giddy, bear-hugging his old role with considerable enthusiasm.

Early in the film, Lloyd eats a hot dog as no other human being has ever eaten a hot dog – bizarrely using the bun as an impromptu napkin – and the project suddenly comes into focus. Harry and Lloyd are twenty years older but not a tick wiser, a comforting thought in itself. Moreover, the actors’ gleeful-as-ever idiocy establishes that a pair of fifty-somethings are more than capable of carrying a major release, and that ostensible “classics” are only as untouchable as moviegoers make them out to be. The original “Dumb And Dumber” wasn’t especially well-received in 1994, only to hit its stride in the years that followed. As the same brand of comfort food cinema, “Dumb And Dumber To” should do the same.

And that’s the ace up the film’s sleeve: the passage of time, which surprisingly works in the movie’s favor. In the intervening years, enough life has been lived by cast, crew, and audience members that nothing in this belated sequel matters but the jokes. Not the plot, not the cinematography, not even the hyperbolic love that many millions have for the original. All that matters is the laughs “Dumb And Dumber To” gets or doesn’t get. For most, catching up with Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne should prove worth the wait. And maybe it was the wait that made it worth it in the first place.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Good)

Release Date: November 14, 2014
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Screenwriter: Sean Anders, John Morris, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Mike Cerrone
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Kathleen Turner
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references)