Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are too lame to live – and too dense to die – as a pair of deliriously dim-witted pals on a cross-country road trip to return a briefcase full of cash to its rightful owner. Along the way they’ll confound cops, kidnappers and anyone and everyone who had the misfortune of crossing their paths in this comic caper for every idiot in the family!
Dumb and Dumber 6.75
eyelights: Jim Carrey. Jeff Daniels. the gross-out humour.
eyesores: Lauren Holly. the mundane script. the spareness of its gags.
“Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?”
In 1994, Jim Carrey was on a roll. After the tremendous successes of ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective‘ and ‘The Mask‘, he came out with his third number one box office hit in a row in the span of a year (a record at the time) with ‘Dumb and Dumber’. Although it brought in less money than its predecessors, it was still a huge box office winner, grossing over 200 million dollars worldwide.
It also helped launch the careers of writer-director duo Bobby and Peter Farrelly, who would become the kings of politically-incorrect and gross-out comedy for nearly a decade to come, with such classy fare as ‘Me, Myself and Irene’, ‘Kingpin’ and the box office-bustin’ ‘There’s Something About Mary‘, amongst others; ‘Dumb and Dumber’ was merely a trial run for what was to come.
In fact, one might be surprised to see just how tame the picture is compared to their subsequent efforts; ‘Kingpin’ alone was five times more inappropriate and/or offensive – and that was their follow-up effort. This one’s also surprisingly short on laughs in comparison, with long drawn-out stretches between gags or one-liners. Of course, that also depends on what one considers funny.
I still remember one of my best friends coming back deflated from seeing this at the cinema back in the day. We had both adored Carrey’s last two pictures and were keen for more. But he was genuinely disappointed with this one, saying that he hadn’t laughed much even though the rest of the cinema was shaking with laughter. It took me years before I could be bothered to see it.
‘Dumb and Dumber’ follows the adventures of Lloyd and Harry, a couple of dimwits who go on a cross-country trek to return to its rightful owner a suitcase that was left at the airport. Their motivation: the owner is a stranger that Lloyd has a crush on. But what they don’t know is that the suitcase is filled with ransom money and that dangerous kidnappers are hot on their tail.
Most of the picture takes place on the road and consists of a series of gags and misadventures revolving around our irresponsible and none-too-bright pair of misfits. Unfortunately, the humour is unsophisticated, designed for 12-year-olds; the jokes are easy and aren’t staged or delivered in clever ways. I suppose that the audience is expected to laugh at how lame/pathetic the two are.
However, it’s hard to do because Harry and Lloyd are inherently selfish and inappropriate, making them somewhat irredeemable. Granted, they’re too stupid to know any better, but it’s hard to ignore that they’re jerks. If only they had been written in a clever way, then perhaps it would pass muster (yes, you can write stupid in a smart way), but the writing is lazy and predictable here.
A perfect example of this is the way that the writers’ justification for not killing off Lloyd and Harry, even though the hoods have been instructed to and one of them is itching to do it: “Shut up! Now we don’t even know who the hell they are! You don’t kill people you don’t know. That’s a rule”. Really? In what way does this make any sense? I know it’s just a comedy, but give me a break.
Or relish this stellar exchange, if you will:
Harry Dunne: “Nice set of hooters you got there!”
Mary Swanson: “I beg your pardon?”
Harry Dunne: “The owls! They’re beautiful!”
Like I was saying… a 12-year-old’s wit.
Even the casting doesn’t overcome the material. Carrey was born to play dimwits, and he tried his damnedest to bring in the laughs, but the gags just aren’t there. And Jeff Daniel absolutely looks the part of a simpleton, but he often comes off as pathetic, actually; it’s hard to laugh at this shaggy dog. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is of such mediocre calibre that there’s no saving grace.
…including the gawdaful Lauren Holly, who has the sparkling personality of a clump of plastic.
Frankly, even though my expectations had been adjusted, I was bored much of the time – despite this being my second time and not having seen this in at least a decade, likely more. I found it chuckle-worthy at best, aside for maybe 8-10 good laughs in the whole picture. Thankfully, the Farellys would redeem themselves with ‘Kingpin’, which is a laugh a minute – and HUGE laughs at that.
But ‘Dumb and Dumber’…? It’s hard to imagine that something so dull (in the intellectual and entertainment sense) could possibly have been as popular as it was. I suppose that the same people who look upon Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin as heroes enjoyed this. Sure, there’s a long history of this in cinema, but even the most moronic get to show their… ahem… rapier wit at some point.
Not so here. The title speaks for itself.
Post scriptum: Most home video editions feature the Unrated version instead of the Theatrical version. Its value is subjective, but I would suggest hunting down the original Theatrical version if one must see the picture. The differences are few and sometimes subtle, like slightly extended scenes, which include a small exchange about Harry’s ski outfit and Harry taking the toilet apart to empty it out the window.
However, the Unrated version makes all sorts of creepy gay references (far more so than even the previous version) that somehow are meant to be funny but are actually pretty disturbing – particularly in the hot tub and in the car park bathroom. To me, it was in even more poor taste than the Farelly Brothers’ usual fare; personally, I don’t find suggestions of rape funny in any context, even guy-on-guy.
Also, for some reason (perhaps due to the addition of outtakes), I noticed the acting more this time. It’s bloody horrible. So stick to the Theatrical version.
Date of viewing: May 31, 2015