In the mid-1990s, self-appointed cultural gatekeepers used to wield Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber as proof of the deterioration of film artistry. Those people hadn’t, of course, actually bothered to see the movie, and thus had no sense of its peculiar, sweet-spirited, un-toilet-trained brilliance. Times have changed, thank God, and today Dumb and Dumber is rightly considered a classic, a No. 1 deserving of a proper No. 2: In Dumb and Dumber To, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, best friends who share a few thousand brain cells, give or take, between them. They’re 20 years older, if not 20 years wiser, and though their faces have aged appropriately, both look more or less the same as they used to, Lloyd with his chipped tooth and cereal-bowl bangs, Harry with his bird’s-nest mop of hair and half-perplexed, half-disgusted scowl.
But something’s not right. There’s a vague sourness to Dumb and Dumber To, uncharacteristic of the Farrellys — even their Three Stooges movie, for all its eye poking and nose doinking, was filled with bratty affection. In Dumb and Dumber To, the moments that underscore Lloyd and Harry’s devotion to each other feel overwritten and forced (even if they do include a few instances of wholly selfless diaper changing). The two spend more time dishing out sharp jabs to the nuts and semi-advertently killing off tropical birds than doing sweet stuff such as smelling each other’s farts — although there’s a little of that, too. The plot — in which Harry and Lloyd leave their beloved Rhode Island and set off in search of the daughter Harry never knew he had, a ditzy dish with an overachieving grin (Rachel Melvin) — moves efficiently enough; it’s the movie’s lackluster spirit that lags behind.
That’s a shame, because there are more than a few inspired gags here, exuberant in their go-for-broke idiocy: Lloyd refers to Harry’s long-lost daughter as “the fruit of your loom.” The two phone each other accidentally from opposite ends of a couch. And in a superb reprise of the genius “soup du jour” joke from Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd hears that a bar is serving drinks “gratis” and responds, thoughtfully, “That sounds expensive.” But the misfires, including a strange menstruation gag, far outnumber the hits. Dumb and Dumber To is mostly just a kick in the nuts, and not the good kind — provided there is a good kind.