As a 12-year-old boy when the original Dumb and Dumber was released during the 1994 Oscar season, I was more or less the target demographic. And while the Farrelly Brothers, Jim Carrey, and Jeff Daniels were snubbed at that year’s ceremony—thanks, Forrest Gump—my fondness for the picture has only grown in the subsequent 20 years.
Which is to say, I was primed to hate Dumb and Dumber To. Messing with someone’s nostalgia is a dangerous thing. And, let’s be honest, the film’s marketing campaign hasn’t inspired confidence. The jokes seemed like stale retreads. Carrey and Daniels look fairly ridiculous as Lloyd and Harry, the 20 extra years on their odometers showing up in wrinkles around their eyes and extra folds of skin on their faces.
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Further ramping up the potential for disappointment is the fact that Dumb and Dumber To is more or less the same exact film as Dumb and Dumber. Harry and Lloyd are entrusted with a package that they must deliver halfway across the country to Lloyd’s long lost daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), with whom Harry has managed to fall in love. Attempting to steal this precious cargo is Travis (Rob Riggle), a thug who has tagged along for the ride under false pretenses.
And yet, I must admit to enjoying this movie more than I thought I would. It’s unsurprisingly and unrepentantly dumb, of course. Derivative and repetitive and filled with fan service, naturally. Uncreatively shot and rather bland in structure, most definitely. Still: It’s kind of funny! Certainly funnier than I thought it would be. As far as naked cash grabs go, this one is relatively inoffensive.
I do wonder how much those who haven’t seen the original will understand. There are a ton of in-jokes and references to the first film that may not make sense to viewers who aren’t acquainted with Harry and Lloyd’s previous misadventure. One small example: The blind boy, Billy, whose bird was killed by mobsters in the previous picture shows up again. But now, instead of having a single parakeet, he has a whole flock of rare and exotic birds. Needless to say, the reintroduction of Lloyd into Billy's life is not a boon for that crew of cockatoos.
I’m not saying Dumb and Dumber To is going to win a raft of Oscars—thanks, um, Selma, I guess? But it’s a surprisingly funny film that lands just enough jokes and manages not to desecrate the corpse of its predecessor. Sometimes the soft bigotry of low expectations is a blessing, not a curse.