Two hours is a whole lot of dumb. So in that respect “Dumb and Dumber To,” starring the off-the-chain, goofballing Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, delivers on its promise.
The sequel’s definitely been dumbed down, which is not really an issue. If you buy a ticket to a movie called “Dumb and Dumber To,” dumb is precisely what you expect, want and possibly need.
But what felt fresh in Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s original “Dumb and Dumber,” with the Carrey-Daniels dense duo channeling the Stooges and Jerry Lewis and something else entirely, feels strangely old-fashioned two decades later. Hollywood wasn’t specializing in stupidity so much in 1994.
Now we live in a time when dumb buddy comedy has become an entire strain of filmmaking, and a hugely profitable one. It includes three “Hangovers” and nearly everything Will Ferrell does, with anchorman Ron Burgundy the highest form of his lowbrow. There’s an entire subset of Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn-Ben Stiller antics, mixed and matched across countless films, including “The Wedding Crashers,” “Dodgeball,” “Starsky & Hutch” and “The Internship.” There is even an entrenched “Superbad” next generation of Seth Rogens and Jonah Hills.
Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas and Daniels’ Harry Dunne bring us back to a simpler dumb-buddy time in “Dumb and Dumber To,” again directed by the Farrelly brothers.
If you’ve seen the trailers — can anyone escape them? — you know that Lloyd’s finally come out of his fake coma, a 20-year gag that Harry deems “awesome.” The two guys pick up where they left off, older but no wiser.
Harry’s living in the same dumpy apartment with two significant changes — his new roommate makes meth, and the blind boy who bought the guys’ headless dead parakeet in the first film has grown up and is now surrounded by a flock of exotic birds.
But with the sheer number of cooks in the “Dumber To” kitchen — it’s written by Sean Anders, John Morris, both Farrelly brothers, Bennett Yellin and Mike Cerrone — the sequel sometimes feels like a series of gags ginned up by a gaggle of writers who are not always on the same page.
There are all the expected blind jokes, fart jokes, pee jokes and poop jokes. Flashbacks to Harry changing Lloyd’s adult diapers during the coma phase become a running gag.
The occasional shot of the top of Harry’s derriere, such a hoot in the first, feels impossibly tame in a time when showing your Calvins is passe and Kim Kardashian’s naked backside on a magazine cover is trending. In an effort to remain relevant, some of the punchlines also target race, Asperger syndrome and AIDS, to name a few. I’m sure if the film had landed next year, Ebola would make the mix.
The reason for the road trip this time, other than to provide different locales for all the slapstick silliness and the return of the mutt-mobile, is Harry’s medical condition. He’s in need of a kidney transplant, and an old postcard from ex-girlfriend Fraida (Kathleen Turner) informs him that he fathered a daughter years ago. Penny (Rachel Melvin), who was put up for adoption, would be a perfect donor match for Harry. If only they could find her.
Enter the villains and the reasons the guys are once again at risk of being killed. Suffice it to say that instead of a briefcase filled with cash, this time they’re transporting a box filled with a billion-dollar scientific breakthrough.
Lloyd and Harry are soon racing against time, headed to a scientific convention in El Paso, where Penny’s picking up an award for her Nobel-winning adopted dad (Steve Tom). Rob Riggle, playing twins — a back-stabbing gardener named Travis and a black-ops specialist named Capt. Lippincott — is the best of the bad guys. Of all the secondary players, Melvin, who spent years in the “Days of Our Lives” daytime trenches, is the best. The actress does a pretty decent dumb that echoes both Harry and Lloyd, which is no easy task.
The production value of “To” reflects the bigger budget that the follow-up to a surprise hit often brings. As it happens, though, more money doesn’t make all that much difference in executing a fart joke.
One of the charms of the “Dumb” routine is the way it lets Carrey go wild. His comic streak is a mile wide, and the Farrellys use every inch of it. Whether he’s dousing a chili pepper burn with huge squirts of ketchup and mustard or honestly just standing, smiling or talking, Carrey is mind-blowing to watch.
After a recent string of films characterized by more misses than hits, it’s good to see the actor back at the top of his game, contorting that rubber mouth into impossible grins and grimaces before breaking into some manic yuck-yuck-yucking, or using those rubber legs to make one unforgettable entrance after another.
Daniels, destined to play second fiddle in the first, feels like he’s moved to third in “To.” In part it’s a function of a super amped-up Carrey. But some of the blame rests with Aaron Sorkin’s intelligent HBO drama “The Newsroom,” which has turned Daniels’ anchorman into a Walter Cronkite-level brand of flawed headline-disseminating integrity.
Before “Dumb and Dumber,” Daniels was known for the subtler brand of comedy we saw in Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985) and “Radio Days” (1987), or for being frequently confused with acting peer Bill Pullman. “Dumb” Harry hit, defining him for a bit. Then the actor began opting for smarter and serious, working his way toward the classy newscaster. It’s hard to go back from such intellectual heights to the dumb milieu, especially given Carrey’s very long shadow.
To his credit, Daniels tries his best, but when it comes to dumb and dumber, Carrey is better.