Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2014)
Iíll give directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly credit: the told us their comedic philosophy right from the start. They titled their initial effort Dumb & Dumber, and that concept of inanity has continued through most of their efforts over the last 20 years.
Whether thatís good or bad depends on the perspective held by the viewer. Iíve occasionally found some mirth in their work, but I must admit I usually donít get much from the Farrellysí efforts and I donít recall that I cared for Dumber theatrically. Still, opinions change, so I figured it deserved another look.
Dumber introduces us to dog groomer Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and limo driver Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). Both get fired from their jobs on the same day, but prior to his dismissal, Lloyd carts lovely Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) to the airport. Immediately smitten with her, Lloyd leaps to the rescue when he sees that Mary leaves a briefcase behind in the airport.
Little does Lloyd realize that Mary did this intentionally, as it turns out she meant to drop the briefcase for some low-lifes named Mental (Mike Starr) and Shay (Karen Duffy). Maryís plane departs before he can give it to her, so he takes it home with him. This sets the thugs on his trail, but Lloyd and Harry give them the slip. They believe the goons are agents of the utilities to whom they own money, so the boys head out of town.
Lloyd decides to make the most of their situation and seize the day. He urges Harry to go to Aspen to return the briefcase to Mary. Harry agrees, so the pair make the journey from Rhode Island to Colorado. The movie follows their adventures on the road along with what happens when they finally reach the Rockies.
Whatís changed since 1994: I like Jim Carrey much more now than I did back then. At the time, I saw Carrey as an obnoxious flavor of the month. Obviously heís not a flash in the pan, and his talents have become more obvious over the last 20 years. I donít count myself as a major Carrey fan, but I like him and think he can be an asset in the right project.
On the other hand, as I alluded earlier, Iíve developed a general disdain for the Farrellys in that period. Since Dumber was their first project, I entered it with no notions about their oeuvre when I viewed it theatrically. That no longer happens, as I now go into Farrelly projects with firm preconceptions of what to expect.
Dumber follows their general MO, but not to the degree I expected. I remembered it as another of their excessively crude and crass comedies, but thatís not the case.
Yes, Dumber includes more than a few disgusting moments, with the infamous bathroom scene as the most nauseating of the bunch. It doesnít equal the nastiness of subsequent Farrelly works, though. I guess they needed a hit under their belts before they exploited their toilet tendencies; 1996ís wretched Kingpin became the first really unpleasant Farrelly flick.
Compared to Kingpin and many of its descendants, Dumber appears sweet and almost gentle. It prefers to dig into the main charactersí general stupidity instead of potty gags. This means it should live or die with the comedy generated by the leadsí idiocy.
ďLive or dieĒ stands as an exaggeration in this case, though, since I donít think Dumber falls into either category. I didnít experience the same visceral reaction provoked by so many other Farrelly works. Dumber was moderately amusing but not strong enough to move me in either direction.
I have a few problems with the film. First, like virtually all Farrelly flicks, Dumber is too long, a problem exacerbated by the extended running time of this unrated cut. It includes about seven minutes of additional footage; the theatrical version ran 106 minutes, while this one goes for 113 minutes. 106 minutes was probably too long for this sort of story, but 113 minutes really drags.
Comedies donít usually go for so long, and thereís a good reason for that: they tend to sag when they go past the 100-minute mark. Exceptions to this rule exist, but not many, as longer comedies often lose steam. Even good flicks like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers donít live up to their potential due to excessive running times.
The lack of a concise plot exacerbates this problem, and the whole briefcase story exists as little more than a MacGuffin. Itís a reason for Harry and Lloyd to leave Rhode Island and go through some adventures. When the movie tries to deal with the kidnapping plot connected to the briefcase, it flounders.
With a real storyline, Dumber might have held our interest for its excessive running time. However, the movie really works as a loosely connected series of comedic bits. We see Harry and/or Lloyd in a variety of situations and wacky gags. The film jumps from one to another in a jerky manner that lacks much flow.
Another issue relates to the nature of the humor. Thereís just not a whole lot of variety to the gags, so they grow wearisome after a while. Itíd be nice to see a change of pace every once in a while, but most of the comedy follows the same path.
An additional problem comes from the lack of contrast between Harry and Lloyd. Though Harry seems a little smarter, both really are dumb and dumber, so we see little distinction. Their interactions fail to engage us because they donít show a way to contrast with normal folks.
The filmís main alteration of this formula comes when Mental poses as a hitchhiker to trap the boys. He gets stuck in the front seat between Harry and Lloyd, and their idiotic rapport torments him. Because we see the contrast between a normal person and these morons, their shtick becomes inspired.
A few other sequences offer some pretty good laughs, but again, theyíre too monotonous to fare well over 113 minutes. How many times can the filmmakers put the boys in silly outfits and expect laughs? More than Iíd think, as this concept persists through the film.
On the positive side, Carrey and Daniels interact well. To my surprise, Carrey doesnít overshadow his co-star. Given their usual cinematic personae, Iíd expect Carrey to run away with the movie. After all, Daniels never made a name as a wacky comedic actor. However, he keeps up with his rubberfaced pal and manages to balance the flick.
For what itís worth, I regard Dumb & Dumber as one of the more pleasant Farrelly flicks. I like it more now than I did 20 years ago, though perhaps thatís because I thought little of it back then. I just donít see it as a particularly noteworthy comedy, though. It has some nice moments but suffers from too many lulls to be better than average.