In the closing credits of Dumber and Dumber To, the long-gestating sequel to the 1994 comedy smash, the film shows split screens of the two movies together, just in case the new one left you wanting more. And it will.
The split-screens also highlight a glaring flaw in the sequel: everything that happens in Dumb and Dumber is given a do-over or update in the new entry. Looking at just the plot points, each film is mostly identical. Here’s a synopsis for both: after duping a blind kid with a bird, two Rhode Island idiots take a cross-country road trip in a ridiculous car with a murderous henchman to return a package to a woman who will likely be a romantic interest to one of them. Along the way they violently prank each other, abuse mustard, dress in absurd costumes, dream about ninjas and are saved by undercover cops. The details are changed, but the two films are largely identical. In many ways, this is more remake than sequel.
It begins 20 years after the events of the original film, because that’s how long it’s actually been. Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) is in a mental hospital and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) makes occasional visits to change his diapers and empty his waterbed-sized urine bag. Lloyd eventually snaps out of it and the two IQ-deficient men head off to find Harry a kidney before he kicks the bucket.
Their search leads them back to their old apartment, the blind bird boy (played by the same kid, now grown up), and eventually to Harry’s Asian parents, where he receives a decade’s worth of mail — Lloyd: “Look, Harry, you were accepted to Arizona State!” They end up at the house of an old conquest, Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), who reveals that she had given birth to Harry’s daughter 20 years earlier. The daughter is now in El Paso at a tech conference unveiling a billion-dollar idea, which brings out the worst in her stepmother (Laurie Holden), who looks so much like the original’s Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) it kept ejecting me out of the movie.
Now, could any movie live up to the original Dumb and Dumber? Not likely, which is why a lot of what happens here gets a pass. But I did expect the sequel to be original, and it rarely is. Much of what happens is call-and-response from the original film. The peppers-in-the-burger gag has been replaced with a fireworks-in-the-bedroom gag. Lloyd tearing a ninja’s heart from his chest and putting it in a doggy back has been swapped out with him snatching a man’s testicles off with a leather whip. In both films, the men comically abuse the package in their care — here they punt it in a game of football.
All of this would be more tolerable, if it were more organic and pure, like the original’s thunderous arrival. But it all feels forced and stretched. And poor Daniels, he was so genuinely earnest and dopey in the original. Here he seems out of his element and confused at Harry’s stupid tone. Some of the jokes just fall flat, including a long sequence that requires Lloyd to stick his hand in awful places on a deaf octogenarian or a bit with Mama June from TV’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The TV mom, prone to dating child molesters, imploded on arrival — not a laugh in the entire audience. (In the film's defense, the scene was filmed before the mother's dating habits surfaced.)
The comedy does hit some home runs, though, including a bombshell that relates to an envelope’s return address and a Stephen Hawking-like scientist uttering a very unscientific sentence using his electronic voice assist. Carrey, so rubbery and goofy in the original, brings it all back here as Lloyd. It’s sometimes hard to remember Carrey’s physical comedy, but this will take you right back. He has a bit where he orders two hot dogs, sloppily eats the sausage and then uses the buns as napkins. It’s a very Jerry Lewis moment, but it’s silly and stupid in just the right amounts. Carrey also has one of the best context-free quotes of the movie: “That douchebag stole our hearse!” What he doesn’t know is where the hearse actually went.