Twenty years after they permanently lowered the bar on broad and dumb character comedies, Lloyd and Harry are back, Dumb and Dumber than ever in Dumb and Dumber To.
And within moments of the opening credits, you may find yourself overcome with sentimental warmth at seeing two 50-something actors as characters that the years have not made smarter. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels energetically reprise their popular roles, and the warmth follows.
Those fart-joke farceurs, the Farrellys, re-team with their stars and an equally aged supporting cast for a film of occasional funny lines, random uproarious sight gags and bodily function jokes, all scented with a whiff of sad desperation. They’re Stooges in a post-Hangover world, and the staleness shows.
Harry visits a catatonic, bearded Lloyd in a rest home only to learn he’s been the butt of Lloyd’s 20-year-long practical joke. His comeuppance? Harry enlists two groundskeepers to help him yank out Lloyd’s catheter (after changing his colostomy bag, with his teeth, of course).
And they’re off, doubling up on a Schwinn to visit Harry’s estranged Asian parents and then the aged, bloated floozy (Kathleen Turner, enduring jokes about her current appearance) who supposedly had Harry’s baby and gave her up for adoption, decades ago.
Harry needs a kidney donor. So the 50-something “10-year-olds” motor to Maryland and then El Paso in search of the dopey bombshell (Rachel Melvin, out of her depth) who might be his donor-daughter, a “genital donor match.”
The Farrellys, who peaked with the raunchy, rude and yet romantic There’s Something About Mary in 1998, hurl miss-or-hit sight gags and throw-away lines at us. Harry looks over 20 years of mail his parents saved for him.
“Oh. I got into Arizona State!”
Six credited writers and you get malapropisms such as “It’s all water under the fridge,” and “That’s just a suburban legend!”
Carrey ensures that he gets almost all the funny lines here. But the fetching Miss Melvin tries her hand at a couple as her character wonders if she should “go to India and volunteer at one of those Leprechaun colonies!”
The road trips, with Rob Riggle playing a malevolent schemer trying to keep them from reaching Harry’s daughter, have an epic fart joke, but too many lame zingers to get them or us all the way across the country.
Carrey’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live reminded us of his gift for mimicry, and his post-Farrelly films have shown ambition and flashes of brilliance. Daniels has been reliably funny in a range of comedies over the decades. They can still bring it. Watching Carrey eat a mustard-drenched hot dog is positively Keatonesque — Buster, not Michael.
Truth be told, I was never a fan of the first Dumber, but the stars made it endurable and convincingly stupid. Here, they’re sometimes funny, and sometimes just forlorn. They’re better than this, no matter how good they are at hiding the fact that they know it.
A whole generation has grown up on the antics of these two Rhode Island rubes, so a little nostalgia isn’t unwarranted. Box office hopes for this pre-packaged but very late sequel should be high. But the strain shows in the wizened-but-not-wiser stars.
It’s just that comedy left the Farrellys behind over 10 years ago, and even their best efforts at reviving their PG-13 Three Stooges style feels old-fashioned and tired.
And that warmth we feel in those promising early scenes? With luck, it’ll come out in the wash.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rachel Melvin, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden.
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly.
Screenwriters: Sean Anders, Mike Cerrone, John Morris, Bennett Yellin and Peter and Bobby Farrelly.
A Universal Studios release. Running time: 110 minutes. Contains crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references