Dumb and Dumber To is exceptionally bad. It fails both as a sequel and as a movie unto itself. Not only is it unfunny, but it actually manages to be offensive. The few laughs it did provide were overshadowed by a wash of embarrassment I felt towards the whole thing. It’s a real slog.
This isn’t to say I expected much, either. When it comes to comedy sequels it is always important to keep expectations in check, and I didn’t expect much. What did I expect? I predicted it would be an unnecessary, yet earnest attempt to cash in on the goodwill of a classic while providing a few decent laughs of its own. At the very least, I wanted a decent excuse to watch two of my favorite characters together again — played by the men who made them great, and not some uninspired prequel hacks.
Yet, Dumb and Dumber To feels much closer in spirit and design to the prequel than it does to the original. It doesn’t feel like Harry and Lloyd — it feels like two guys who can do decent Harry and Lloyd shtick at a Halloween party. It feels manufactured and over produced. It’s the film equivalent of Green Day’s “American Idiot.” The way they look and act is more suited to a novelty awards presentation than a movie. As Harry and Lloyd meander through the needlessly convoluted plot, it all seems like it’s on a stage. Heck, even their clothes, which haven’t changed in 20 years, feel like costumes. Even the way Lloyd walks feels designed. It’s not Lloyd Christmas, it’s Jim Carrey doing an impression of a character he’s long since forgotten how to play.
Harry and Lloyd no longer seem as innocently dumb as they once were. The oddly charming social naivety is gone, having been replaced by an awkward mean streak. The Lloyd and Harry from 1994 might mistake kindness for passion and cyanide for ulcer medication, but they would never yell “show us your tits” at a TED talk (or a KEN talk, as it’s called in this world). That’s not an isolated incident either. Throughout the movie Lloyd and Harry act purposefully destructive towards everybody, and excessively so toward women, which is especially uncomfortable in the midst of a countrywide dialogue about street harassment. Even if that weren’t the case, it’s always in exceptionally poor taste to have a gag where it appears that our main characters are about to awkwardly hit on a pair of significantly younger women, but instead shove them to the ground as part of a game that, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist outside of the movie.
Women aren’t the only victims either — there are a lot of uncomfortable race gags too. So much so that I began to wonder if the comedy was simply dated, and my reaction was drafted in a post-Apatow world. But even with that caveat, I simply don’t believe that even two whole decades ago, we were so socially backwards. I should note that I’m not one to espouse indignation toward purposefully offensive material, but for it to work, it must be in a humorous context. If your character acts racist or sexist or whatever-ist, the butt of the joke should be their ignorance. Instead, Harry and Lloyd simply announce stereotypes and act bullyish. It’s icky.
Another way in which the humor fails is that it follows an inert dynamic. Unlike the original, Dumb and Dumber To does not take place in the real world. Whereas Dumb and Dumber derived its comedy from implanting impossibly stupid people into a normal environment with normal folk, the sequel exists in a cartoonish reality inhabited by caricatures. This is a world where Rob Riggle (who I usually enjoy) gets to play not one, but two characters, twins, one of which is constantly doing that supremely dated gag where he’s painted with impossibly perfect camouflage. This is a world where elderly women have literal dust inside their genitals (which plays as a punchline to a very strange rape sequence). This is a world where a machine exists that can plug into your brain and allow people to watch your memories on screen (in the third person, no less). This is a world where people who have been exposed to nuclear waste run-off glow in the dark rather than, ya know, die.
One of the cardinal rules of comedy movies is not to let the plot bog down the humor. This is not to say that comedy should be plotless, but instead that it should work hand in hand with plot. Look at Ghostbusters. There are NO jokes in that movie, just strong characters. The plot is there, but the entertainment doesn’t stop. I’m dying to ask the Farrelly brothers why they think I care about some half-cooked murder plot. I honestly could not tell you the ins and outs of the story because it eventually became such a chore to care. Granted this is a bit of a Farrelly trope, but having Harry and Lloyd simply search for Harry’s daughter is plot enough. Do we really need stakes higher than this? Does there even need to be a villain? Do we really need to make Harry’s daughter the most annoyingly soulless character in the history of cinema? I might be hyperbolizing, but I also might not. Seriously, she is that bad.
And really, is CGI the best way to create a snot bubble? Come on. The amount of unnecessary CGI in this movie is offensive, and it lends heavily to the fake, lifeless tone.
By 30 minutes in, this flick is dead in the water, where it remains for another 90 minutes. It’s so darn long. Ugh. And when the credits finally do roll, we’re treated to footage from the original movie which, although it was intended to invoke nostalgia, instead just made me sad. Let’s agree to give Dumb and Dumber To the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull treatment and just pretend it didn’t happen. And if you want to watch middle aged men act childish, go watch Step Brothers.
Dumb and Dumber To opens today in Philly area theaters.