Sequels that arrive long after their originals can really go both ways. Ones that have worked, like Tron: Legacy or The Colour of Money, have had something new to say that made revisiting classics like Tron or The Hustler worthwhile. When the people behind the first movie are just goofing around or rehashing nostalgia, like leads to disappointments like The Odd Couple II or The Blues Brothers 2000.
So which is the oddity Dumb and Dumber To, the two-decades-later sequel to the 1994 hit Dumb and Dumber? It’s actually caught between the former and latter groups, in a curious limbo of vacillation. It reaches remarkable heights at times, but also falls flat too often for its own good.
Taking place two decades after the events of the first movie, nothing has changed for morons Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) — due, in large part, to the fact Lloyd has been in a catatonic state at a psychiatric hospital since 1994. It turns to just be a 20-year-long prank on Harry, though, and the two fall back into their old rhythms without missing a beat.
Harry reveals to Lloyd that he needs a kidney or he’s going to die soon, which leads the two to discovering a long-lost daughter Harry never knew he had (Rachel Melvin), who’s his only hope of getting a donor in time. Before you know it, Harry and Lloyd are off on another cross-country adventure. In another silly choice for a vehicle. With another hitchhiker trying to secretly kill them.
There’s absolutely no denying how much Dumb and Dumber To rips off the original. Over the sequel’s 105 minutes, this critic counted no less than 41 specific references, re-quotes, and callbacks to the original. Hell, there are not one, not two, not three, but four songs from Dumb and Dumber that get re-used here.
Of course, in the defence of writer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the first Dumb and Dumber did created the modern standards for gross-out comedy that has birthed everything from American Pie to Family Guy. So many of Dumb and Dumber’s descendants have come and gone over the last two decades that the old humour isn’t going to have the same effect, which is where the movie sometimes finds trouble.
Where it succeeds (somewhat) is that, while it may recycle some ‘90s jokes, it isn’t afraid to tackle what modern-day gross-out humour has become, and it doesn’t always fail with it. Yes, some of the jokes are taken to a disgusting extreme, but in arguably the same way Harry having diarrhea on a broken toilet was in the first movie.
There are also, to be fair, a number of sublime bits that match the genius of the first movie. They come out of the blue and aren’t as often as you’d like, but when they arrive, they catch you off-guard with how classically funny they are. And it would be wrong to say that movie doesn’t have that same irresistible charm Dumb and Dumber did, even if it doesn’t get quite the same traction.
Carrey and Daniels don’t miss a beat. It takes a few minutes to get adjust to seeing their rubber-faced characters with wrinkles and crow’s feet, but they tackle the physicality of the roles and the stupidity of the material with the same gusto they did in 1994. Melvin, Laurie Holden, Rob Riggle, and Kathleen Turner (as that mutual “one that got away” from the original, Fraida Felcher) match that same goofiness.
Was Dumb and Dumber To necessary? No. The movie doesn’t really have a good idea for a sequel, beyond trying to give audiences the same reactions again, which it can’t completely deliver on. It’s a long time to wait just to hear the same jokes that you could get from re-watching the superior original. The bits that work are genius, but they don’t come at a frequent enough pace. As far as late-arriving follow-ups to Dumb and Dumber go, though, it’s still better than Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.