I probably laughed more watching “Dumb and Dumber To” than any other movie this year, save this summer’s brilliant “Neighbors” and impossibly clever “22 Jump Street.” It’s not just that the jokes and gags arrive one after another, barreling toward the audience with relentless regularity like baseballs from a pitching machine, although that certainly helps.
For better or for worse, the Farrelly brothers, who debuted Harry and Lloyd’s first road-trip comedy two decades ago when I wasn’t yet a teenager, probably swayed my sense of humor their way with their prodigious (and mega-popular) output during the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s. Even as their hits have become more modest in recent years, their influence has spread.
“Dumb and Dumber To” proves a (mostly) pleasant trip down nostalgia lane. The Farrellys feel like jesting uncles you haven’t seen in awhile who look exactly the same as they ever did. The visuals remain homely and brutally efficient, the plot convoluted but the pacing brisk, and the humor often inventive and resourceful — and just as often tired or offensive (to women, people of color, gays and lesbians, old people, take your pick).
I felt particularly bad for both the elderly Asian actress whose Chinese (or Chinese-sounding babble) was raucously sniggered at by Lloyd and the fairly established, 40-something actress asked to lick her co-star’s toes. Women remain jiggle-candy or hags to be called out for ugliness in the Farrelly universe.
And the brothers still haven’t learned how to incorporate human emotions into their films. “Dumb and Dumber To” begins with Harry (Jeff Daniels) discovering that Lloyd (Jim Carrey) has been faking a coma for the last 20 years as a prank, a revelation that leads him to respond, “Awesome!” Though it’s slightly tested here, their loyal friendship has all the emotional resonance of two baboons cackling at the hysterical way the other is scratching its butt.
The sequel fares better with the jokes, the freshness of which stem from the script’s malapropisms and the central duo’s, well, dumbness. When Harry and Lloyd end up at a science and tech conference, the latter poses as “Dr. Christmas” to gain entry. “Christmas like the holiday?” he’s asked. “No, like the tree.”
It’s initially a bit difficult to adjust to the broad-as-a-boulder, hyper-exaggerated performances by Daniels and especially Carrey. But their co-dependent rapport, which feels picked up directly after the first film, quickly draws us in. The overly complicated yet solidly constructed plot lands Harry and Lloyd in another road trip, this time searching for Harry’s daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin), who may be the kidney match that he desperately needs.
The numerous stops and detours, which allow the Farrellys to riff on a multitude of scenarios, has the two dum-dums running into Penny’s mother (Kathleen Turner, who suffers any number of insults about her appearance), Penny’s adoptive father Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom), and the two Pinchelow household members (Rob Riggle and Laurie Holden) who scheme to poison the millionaire patriarch for the inheritance money before doing away with Penny and, eventually, Harry and Lloyd too.
As admirably cohesive as the story is, it’s far surpassed by the wonderfully committed lead performances. Harking back to the rubber-face zaniness of his breakthrough years, Carrey elicits childlike wonder at his hyperactive expressions and movements. The comedian strives to entertain during every single second of the film, delivering an attention-demanding stunt of a performance that manages to never wear out its welcome.
Daniels bridges the gap between Harry and Lloyd’s aggressive clownishness and some semblance of humanity. The actor’s participation in this sequel might be read by some as a bird-flip to the Emmy voters who gave him a Best Actor trophy for “The Newsroom” this year, but he’s so hilarious — and so crucial to the scene when Harry decides to turn on Lloyd for justified reasons — that it just makes you re-appreciate Daniels’ extreme versatility.
The brothers’ puerile humor and worldview may occasionally be hard to stomach, but “Dumb and Dumber To” is a worthy and worthwhile sequel, a visit to that optimistic, unblemished era when movie comedies had just found a promising new future in Carrey — and when “Hall Pass” was but a glint in the Farrellys’ eye.