Walking into the screening for Dumb and Dumber To I was really nervous. Was I about to get Phantom Menaced? After all, the first film came out when I was 11 and instantly became a favorite of mine. It sits somewhere in my Top 5 Comedies, alongside Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Blazing Saddles and a couple of others. Over the years, the original 1994 film has become a hallowed classic amongst the people that grew up with it. Now here I am, at 31, about to sit down and watch Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels revisit these classic characters in a new caper. Oh boy...
I have good news:
It didn't suck!
No, really, it didn't. Right off the bat, the laughs started coming and it was clear to see that Carrey and Daniels were giving their all to make this thing fly. Makes sense, too, considering they never had to make this at all. This isn't a cash grab for either actor, and they weren't contracted for any sequels. They made this because they wanted to, and you can tell. They're having fun, and that fun is instantly contagious.
However, there is a negative in the film's eagerness to make you laugh: The jokes are a little scattershot. Within the opening moments of the movie, you really get a sense that they're trying to cram as many jokes into minute as possible- which results in something of a mixed bag. While you might laugh at every fourth joke, there are three leading up to it that don't really land. And the styles of each joke vary wildly. There's the subtle gag, the completely over-the-top joke, the slapstick lunacy, and the "look how dumb they are" lines. They come, in a mixed assortment, in rapid fire succession. So, depending on what your particular brand of vodka is, you'll get plenty of what you like, and just kind of have to let the other stuff roll of you. Your ability to do that will greatly impact your enjoyment of this movie. I will say that I wish there were more of the subtle, creeps-up-on-you kind of jokes that heightened some of the hilarity of the first film.
When the credits rolled, it became instantly apparent why the jokes were so varied: While Dumb & Dumber had been written by three people (the Farrelly brothers and Bennett Yellin), the sequel has a whopping six writers. That's a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Hence the all-over-the-place nature of the gags.
But, like I said, that didn't bother me too much. There were more than enough laughs in there, especially during the first 2/3s of the film, to make up for that. There was a guy sitting a few rows behind me laughing so hard that I thought he may get taken out of the theater in an ambulance. What did disappoint me, though, was how self-aware the movie is. While I never expected the film to be as good as the first, I at least expected it to have the same tone. The first one placed these morons in a more or less real world setting, and just followed them around on their misadventures. It didn't really comment on how ridiculous the characters are. It just showed you their antics and let you laugh at them.
The sequel, however, has more of a "Isn't it cool to be seeing Harry and Lloyd again?" vibe that underscores it. It has a few very cheeky, very meta cameos in it. There's even a moment where one character stares off into the distance for the beginning of a fantasy sequence, and the other one pops his head in looking in the same direction as if he can see the other's fantasy. So the film comments on itself, and that's a bit of a bummer since that's not the kind of movie the first one was.
With the negatives out of the way now, I will say that there are a couple of jokes in this one that were genuinely hilarious and surprised me in ways that few comedies have in years. It felt good to be so caught off guard, and to be in a theater surrounded by fellow critics who felt similarly, laughing till they choked, yelling "Oh my god!" at the screen. Also, despite the occasional feeling of "They're trying too hard" there are some moments that are pure Dumb bliss, that really recapture what made the first film so great. Namely, those moments come when the scene centers on the zany chemistry between Carrey and Daniels. When the two characters are separated during the film's final act, is when you hit the only real lull in the action.
Of the film's newer cast members, Rob Riggle is the sole standout as Travis Lippincott and his over-the-top secret agent twin brother. One joke, in particular, involving Travis, got the biggest laugh of the whole movie. Notably absent in this film: The Farrelly Repertory Company & Rhode Island. If you're a fan of Peter and Bobby Farrelly, you likely grew accustomed to the directors populating their films with bit parts for certain actors that they grew up with in Rhode Island. Many of their early films shot scenes in RI, too. So this one feels like a bit of a departure for the brothers, who don't revisit Rhode Island and have only the late Danny Murphy (who made small appearances in 6 other Farrelly movies) to show for their old ensemble of small time actors.
All in all, I had plenty of fun watching this movie. To sum up my thoughts in one fell swoop: The first one felt like the gritty, raw first album from a great new band. This one feels more like a live, glossy Greatest Hits Reunion Tour thirty years later. Sure, they're older and they've lost some of their edge, but when it's good...it's really good, and if you're a big enough fan you'll enjoy just watching them do their thing even when it's not your favorite song. If that interests you, go see this movie.