There's nothing quite like watching actors reprise roles that they did 20 years ago, and still manage to capture some of what made those performances so special and memorable. It makes you think about the person you were 20 years ago (assuming you were even born in 1995, when DUMB AND DUMBER was released), about the bright future you saw for yourself, your dreams, your aspirations, the experiences you had so long ago, and the ones you were so looking forward to having. Actually, none of those thoughts entered my head as I was watching DUMB AND DUMBER TO, the sometimes funny-sometimes excruciating exercise in nostalgia baiting in the 21st century.
From a screenplay by modern-day comedy whiz kids Sean Anders and John Morris (writers of HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, WE’RE THE MILLERS, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, SEX DRIVE), the film brings back Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as two of their most successful on-screen characters, Lloyd Chistmas and Harry Dunne, off on another road trip adventure, this time to locate the daughter that Harry just discovered he sired years earlier with Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner, who is treated so cruelly here that you almost can't help but giggle) and whom she gave up for adoption to a wealthy family.
Reviewing comedies is the hardest part of my job, because maybe more than any other film genre, people's personal tastes either connect with or are repulsed by various types of humor. There are a handful of films by directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly (who return for this sequel) that I positively cherish for their smarts as well as their ability to make me dry heave. DUMB AND DUMBER was always a film that I enjoyed but never worshiped the way I do some of the Farrellys' other work. So I'm guessing that if you truly love the first film, you'll be primed to laugh a lot at this one; if you ambivalent about the original, it's more of a crap shoot.
For the most part, DUMB AND DUMBER TO abandons the idea in the original of finding new way to place Harry and Lloyd in a space with normal folks, and watching the two worlds collide. In this film, the boys seem to be thrown in with other weirdos, so they don't stand out quite as much. Even the lovely Rachel Melvin's portrayal of Harry's alleged daughter Penny is done to make her seem like a chip off the old blockhead. She's actually quite charming and funny, and one of the few true highlights of the supporting cast. And then we get characters like those played by Rob Riggle and Laurie Holden, who don't stray too far off the both of the familiar in terms of their performances and rarely deliver big laughs at any point.
The danger of revisiting characters from the past is that we often find we have idealized them, but Lloyd and Harry are pretty much unchanged. They might actually be a little wiser, a little less innocent, but somehow they have managed to get even more annoying and vicious in their prank pulling. I don't think I'm ruining anything by saying there's a brief moment in the film where Lloyd believes that Penny might actually be his daughter, and he switches from potential love interest (at least in his eyes) to overprotective father in the blink of an eye, and it's one of my favorite moments in DUMB AND DUMBER TO. I don't think that's a scene Carrey or Lloyd could have pulled off 20 years ago, and it's not even that funny a scene, but there are a few seconds of brilliance that only decades of practice could achieve.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO isn't any more awful than the first film. I know I laughed at about 50 percent of the big jokes, which isn't a failing grade by my scale, but it's not overwhelming either. There are just enough truly obscure references to keep you interested and enough laughs to keep you awake, so I guess that's a reserved recommendation. And odds are you already know if you're going to see it or not, so why are you reading this, you dope?