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Dumb and Dumber To

D: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly / 109m

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin, Kathleen Turner, Steve Tom, Don Lake, Patricia French, Brady Bluhm, Tembi Locke

Ever since his failed romance with “Mary Samsonite”, Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) has been in a mental institution where he appears to be in a persistent vegetative state. Visited two or three times every week by his best friend, Harry Dunne (Daniels), Lloyd eventually reveals he’s okay and that he’s been playing an elaborate prank on Harry the whole time. Back at their old apartment, Harry tells Lloyd he needs a kidney transplant soon or he’ll die. They visit Harry’s parents in the hope one of them will be a donor, but Harry learns he was adopted. As they leave, Harry is given all the mail that’s been piling up since he moved out; amongst it all is a twenty-two year old postcard from Fraida Felcher (Turner) telling Harry she’s pregnant and to call her.

The duo track Fraida down and she reveals she had a daughter she named Fanny (Melvin) who she gave up for adoption. She also tells them she’s written to her but the letter was returned with a request not to try and contact Penny (her adopted name) ever again. Undeterred by this, Lloyd and Harry determine to find Penny and save Harry’s life. They travel to Maryland where Penny lives with her adoptive parents, famed scientist Bernard Pinchelow (Tom) and his wife Adele (Holden). Unfortunately, they just miss her, as Penny has gone to El Paso to represent her father at a KEN conference, but she’s forgotten to take a special gift for the conference’s organiser that Pinchelow says will be of major benefit to everyone worldwide.

Lloyd and Harry – accompanied by Travis (Riggle), the Pinchelow’s housekeeper – take the gift and head to El Paso. What they don’t know is that Travis is having an affair with Adele, and that they’re plotting to kill Pinchelow; they’re also looking to steal the gift and make millions from it. Along the way, Travis attempts to kill Lloyd and Harry but is thwarted by a freight train and killed. Harry and Lloyd continue on to El Paso, while Adele learns of Travis’s demise from his twin brother (Riggle); he agrees to help her with her plan.

At the conference, Harry is mistaken for Pinchelow and gains admittance, telling the organisers that Lloyd is a colleague. But when Lloyd lets slip that he’s attracted to Penny, Lloyd has him thrown out. Lloyd arranges a meeting with Penny and she reads the letter Fraida sent her; from it, Lloyd deduces that he is Penny’s father and not Lloyd. Penny leaves to get back to the convention, but Adele and Travis’s brother are there as well, and so is Fraida. It all leads to a showdown in a bathroom that sees Lloyd reappear having made the most generous gesture of his life.

Dumb and Dumber To - scene

How do you follow a cult favourite twenty years on? Do you keep to the same formula that made the first movie so successful, or do you try another approach with the same characters and hope it’s not too jarring for fans? Well, if you’re the Farrelly Brothers and you’ve got Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back on board, the weight of expectations can only lead to one answer: give ’em more of the same.

Dumb and Dumber To was always going to be a sequel that critics would have little time for, but the Farrellys, aided by their committed stars, have come up with a movie that honours the first one without entirely sullying its reputation. True, the plot is unsophisticated (not that the first movie’s was any more original or complex), and the humour is broad, puerile and often farcical, but this is a concept that lives or dies not by its content but its willingness to be as relentlessly silly as possible. And silly it is – unremittingly, gloriously, stupidly silly.

Leaving restraint at the door, the tone is set by Harry’s attempt to remove Lloyd’s catheter, an uncomfortably wrong moment that encapsulates the Farrellys approach to both Lloyd and Harry, and the movie as a whole – nothing is too out there. After almost twenty-five years of cinematic gross-out humour it’s got to be difficult to push that particular envelope but there are moments of inspiration that more than make up for the banality of the plot and the supporting cast’s perfunctory acting. The catheter joke gives way to a series of sight gags and one liners that are effortlessly sold by Carrey and Daniels, and it’s clear that the two actors are having a whale of a time, their efforts at raising laughs proving infectious. Carrey, an actor whose facial gurning was overplayed during the Nineties, brings that particular skill back to the big screen and reminds us just how talented he is when “silly” is a movie’s prime objective. But it’s Daniels who steals the show, his big rubbery face the perfect foil for Carrey’s sharp-edged contortions. Daniels is lovable in a way that Carrey can’t be because of the way the characters are written, and he takes full advantage, making Harry not only funnier to watch, but more endearing as well.

There are, inevitably, problems with the script – Lloyd’s selfless gesture involves a trip to Mexico he couldn’t possibly have made, references to the first movie are crammed in for no other reason than to have them there, the conference scenes are not as sharp as they could have been – but it’s the laughs that count, and the Farrellys deliver when it matters, including (for this reviewer) a brilliant moment when Lloyd and Harry think they’ve reached Penny’s home in Maryland (and if you ever end up in a situation where Lloyd is offering you goji berries, just don’t, okay?). The movie also runs around  ten minutes too long and some scenes could have done with some more judicious editing, but on the whole, this is much better than you might expect.

Rating: 7/10 – not the travesty some critics would have you believe, Dumb and Dumber To ends with an advert for Dumb and Dumber For (in 2034); if we do get to spend some more time with Lloyd and Harry, and it’s up to the standard of this outing, then 2034 can’t come round soon enough.

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