Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their signature roles as Lloyd and Harry in the sequel to the smash hit that took the physical comedy and kicked it in the nuts: Dumb and Dumber To. The original film’s directors, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, take Lloyd and Harry on a road trip to find a child Harry never knew he had and the responsibility neither should ever, ever be given.
2014 has already been established as the Year of Years-Too-Late Sequels, thanks to 300: Rise of an Empire (following 2007’s 300) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (following 2005’s Sin City). But nothing beats the two decades that separate Dumb and Dumber from retread Dumb and Dumber To. Reuniting stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels with the Farrelly Brothers, To tries to recreate the blend of raunchy humor and heart that made the original a hit in 1994, but all it provides is a nostalgic trip for some fans of the original, while providing some troubling (and thankfully outdated) bits in the name of “comedy.”
Dumb and Dumber was a breakout for the Farrelly Brothers, and it capped Jim Carrey’s breakout year in film (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask were also released that year). Even though they’ve avoided making a sequel for years, the career trajectory all three have taken in recent years seems to have done the trick to get them to come back to the property. The resulting film follows a similar basic plot to the original, but with enough changes (some intentional, others inherent) to keep it from being a complete carbon copy.
One of the elements that works about the original film is how Harry and Lloyd inhabit a world that is fundamentally sane, with Harry and Lloyd being outliers. That element is switched here, with the world being as insane as Harry and Lloyd. Well, Harry at least. Harry is a little more insane than he was in the first film, but nowhere near as much as Lloyd. The best comparison is this: if Harry and Lloyd were grown children in the first film, here they’re middle-aged teenagers.
That shift is what makes the film less funny and more disturbing at times. In the original, Lloyd may have wanted Mary Swanson, but his obsession seemed in some way simple and almost pure. Here, Lloyd’s lust for Penny Pichlow is more creepy. It’s not just the age difference. It’s the way he physically and verbally lusts after the girl, which would strike more people as predatory in another setting.
That brings me to another issue: the film’s treatment of women. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the original treated women exceptionally, but here, the female characters are almost uniformly either whores or fools. The one exception, a female doctor who heads the KEN Conference (this film’s take on TED), gets catcalled on-stage by Harry and Lloyd. And the film’s final moment has some particularly rape-like elements.
That doesn’t mean that the film is without laughs. Carrey and Daniels slip right back into their famous roles, with their chemistry still intact. There are some laughs they pull from connections to the original. And thankfully, the gay panic jokes that existed in the original aren’t nearly as prevalent here (though one AIDS joke may offend). But the film’s treatment of women, in combination with the particular “growth” of the main characters, just doesn’t seem worth it.