Just when I think unnecessary sequels made decades after their predecessors couldn’t possibly be any dumber, Hollywood goes and does something like this and TOTALLY REDEEMS itself.
At least, that’s what I wished I could write. Halfway through Dumb and Dumber To, hope seized hold of me in the theater, and hope, as those who saw Dumb and Dumberer on opening night can tell you, is a dangerous thing. It leads us to think crazy thoughts. It coerces us to entertain dreams we normally wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t entice into reality. Is this real life? After 20 years of waiting, a sequel to a beloved cult classic is offered upon the masses with all the trimmings. We gave up asking for it years ago – our dreams shattered with an awful prequel set upon us by imposters and charlatans. The idea of a true sequel seemed nothing more than a pipedream belonging to an alternate reality we had no way of reaching. And just when Dumb and Dumber’s core audience grew up, left the house, found real-world employment, and bunkered down with someone they could color-coordinate Christmas sweaters with, Dumb and Dumber’s creators, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, re-emerged with another go, beckoning us back.
For those who loved the original, Dumb and Dumber To is an early holiday gift. It’s not the best gift; it’s not the worst gift. This offering has upsides and downsides, good jokes and bad. The story is very much the same (another road trip), but there’s that infusion of modernity that tries to keep characters Harry Dunn (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) relevant in the new Millennium. At best, it’s a stroll down memory lane with friends who bear the hearts, minds, and souls of the ones we remember from years past. It truly is Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back in action. They’re a little older, faces worn around the edges with time, but it’s them through and through. And each respective actor acts the hell out of his role, which is the biggest deciding factor in whether this movie sinks or swims.
And for fans, Dumb and Dumber To swims. The plot’s shoddy and formulaic, a good number of the jokes zip by with barely a chuckle, and the modern setting carries a vibe that is unsettling at times, but there’s something nostalgic about this outing. There’s a sense of joy in being reunited with these comedic icons that cannot be shaken, one that bears with it a feeling of closure many fans clamored for years ago. This closure is echoed in the film’s end credits, where clips from Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber Toloop in the background, one clip on top of the other, as production text scrolls.
While we laugh at the continuing antics of Harry and Lloyd, there’s this overwhelming ambiance whispering to us, “It’s okay to let it go.” And it is okay. We see that life for our friends is the same as it ever was, that they’re in good spirits and keeping up with the practical jokes. And that’s all we could ever ask for – to spend another hour and a half re-living those days gone by from our youth, days spent incessantly quoting these two goofballs with our friends at school or on the playground.
Could this film “totally redeem itself” in the wake of its long absence? There’s no amount of padding that could have made up for the desires of fans who have waited all this time – a one in a million chance from the get-go – and while there’s still a chance Dumb and Dumber To could have been everything we dreamed for, it didn’t have to. Dumb and Dumber To will never be as good as the original, and the Farrelly Brothers know this, so they aimed to make a sequel that is good enough. It’s everything we need from this zany world before we go back to our own busy worlds, ones that have changed quite a bit in the 20 years since the original enraptured us. It’s the sequel with the little voice bidding us farewell – the good-bye audiences never got to say after the first go-around.
For those who aren’t fans of Dumb and Dumber, good luck. I imagine this movie plays out like a comedic train wreck, zigzagging between inside jokes and classic lines and current pop cultural one-liners, all of which is overstuffed inside convenient plot devices to lead audiences from point A to B to C. But that’s okay. Not all train rides are for everyone.