Films have a sort of unintended magic imposed on them when watched more than once: some improve greatly, whereas others tend to grow a bit stiffer. Dumb and Dumber, which I revisited today, is an unfortunate example of the latter.
Bottom Line: Funny, yes, but noticeably flawed.
“We’ve got no food, we’ve got no jobs…OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLIN’ OFF!” –Jim Carrey as Lloyd
Directed by: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Jim Carrey, Karen Duffy, Lauren Holly, Mike Starr
Cheerfully idiotic road comedy follows two friends, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels). Lloyd is a limousine driver and Harry trains dogs, but both are employed with those jobs in hopes of earning enough money to open up a pet store that sells “worm farms”. Lloyd meets Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly), a beautiful woman who he drives to the airport for a trip to Aspen. He notices that she has left her briefcase in the airport and swiftly tries to take it to her, but her flight has already left. After both he and Harry are both fired from their jobs, Lloyd tries to convince Harry to take a cross-country trip to Aspen so that Mary can get back her briefcase.
Jim Carrey is the star of the show here, and he’s clearly at the pinnacle of his comical career. The writing of the Farrellys would be funny by itself, but Jim rakes that to a whole new level. We laugh at him mainly because of his utterly mistaken impression that Mary Swanson loves him as much as he loves her. In one scene, his character Lloyd tells Jeff Daniels’s character, “Harry, if I know Mary as well as I think I do, she’ll invite us in for tea and strumpets!” Yet Mary is scared to death of Lloyd from the moment she meets him, and even more when he gives her a sentimental goodbye rather than casually dropping her off at the airport in the beginning. Moreover, the dream sequence Carrey’s character has is of perfection. It’s the most bizarre, unexpected, and (dare I say) the dumbest point of the film, with the ending coming quite close. On the other hand, there’s Jeff Daniels. His performance is solid, but that’s under the consideration that he suffers from the script’s inconsistent assessment of his character. It’s actually quite sad that one of the two lead characters the film puts on display is two-dimensional and barely developed. One moment his character is skeptical of why Lloyd might love Mary so much, the next he’s practically all over her. One moment he’s not sure about continuing a cross-country trip, the next he’s all for it. I actually zoned out during the scenes that included Daniels without the strong support of Carrey; he’s such a boring character to watch alone. The writers could have at least made up their minds about his personality before scripting him in. We laugh at what happens to him much more than his self-defined antics alone, unlike Carrey.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this film. I died laughing of it in the first viewing, and it nearly happened again when I revisited it. There are simply too many flaws that are unmissable and even a bit distracting here. The last few scenes, where the film begins to lose steam, have to be the biggest of all them. I understand this is supposed to be a bizarre, absurd comedy, and I know these scenes are meant to poke fun at crime films, but instead, it seems to become a more unexplained piece of that genre. With that said, this upon first sight is utterly hilarious, but it certainly does not improve with repeated viewings.
Postscript: There is a prequel, entitled Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, which was released in 2003. I would strongly advise NOT watching it, as no one in the original cast returns, and instead, the new teenage cast is more of a silly imitation of the original. There are quite a few scenes that mock this original quite a bit. It’s so bad that it makes you want to check back to this film just to see how good it actually was. On the other hand, a sequel to this 1994 film is under the works for a release within the next year or two, and both Carrey and Daniels will be returning. With that said, we can only hope two things for the sequel to play out as well, if not better than the original: One, Carrey resurrects the acting qualities that made him such a character in films like Dumb and Dumber and The Truman Show. Two, Jeff Daniels’s character earns more depth from the writing.