“Dumb and Dumber To” opens with Jim Carrey’s Lloyd Christmas revealing his 20-year fake stupor to best bud Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) with a “Gotcha!” Harry argues that the gag would’ve been funny after a mere 10 years; Lloyd agrees, with the caveat “But not as (funny as 20 years).”
While I’m not sure why we had to wait 20 years for the sequel to “Dumb and Dumber,” if it means it took that long for a respectable follow-up to come together (most viewers think 2003’s prequel, “Dumb and Dumberer,” which I haven’t seen, falls well short of respectable), then it was worth it. Carrey and Daniels effortlessly slip back into their famous roles, and while there are a handful of callbacks (“I like it a lot,” “the most annoying sound” and the “pretty bird” kid), this sequel succeeds for the same reason as the original: A script (again written by Peter and Bobby Farrelly – who also direct – and Bennett Yellin) full of brilliant new examples of Harry and Lloyd’s self-centered but never mean-spirited stupidity.
The plot provides a perfectly dumb impetus for Harry and Lloyd to embark on another road trip, this time from Rhode Island to El Paso, Texas (“the town named after the bean dip,” Harry says). They’re driving a hearse and searching for a young woman named Penny, Harry’s long-lost daughter with Fraida Felcher. The villains, played by Laurie Holden and Rob Riggle, aim to get their hands on a box that the titular duo aim to deliver to Penny at the KEN Conference, a gathering of geniuses, where she’ll be giving a speech on behalf of her adoptive father.
“Dumb and Dumber To” flows so smoothly, and takes advantage of the obvious chances for jokes (Harry trying to start a “Nerd!” chant at the convention) so effortlessly, it’s like the film naturally formed itself out of the residual magic of the original. But there are also snort-worthy and soon-to-be-quotable throwaway lines (Harry, going through old mail: “I got accepted to Arizona State”; Lloyd, upon being told that Harry can hook him up with a good woman his own age: “My age? Gross!”) and pleasant surprises. Rachel Melvin is particularly great as the adorably dimwitted Penny.
As sequels are wont to do, “Dumb and Dumber To” occasionally breaks free of believability with cartoony moments, such as Lloyd somehow climbing a tree to get better cellphone reception or the duo glowing in the dark after showering in power-plant wastewater. But generally, the laughs come from the duo’s casual stupidity (such as Harry’s flawed plan for feeding the cat while he’s away) and a viewer’s knowledge that their oblivious actions will have real consequences for the normal folks caught in their path.
Because Lloyd and Harry’s accidental targets are usually villains, the film is able to maintain its big heart and avoid nasty humor. We can’t really hate Harry and Lloyd, because it’d be like hating a 10-year-old: They simply don’t know any better. And it’s not necessarily their fault; in the case of Lloyd, we learn that his mother smoked heavily during the pregnancy – especially when she was drinking.
Of course, this sequel isn’t as great as the original – still the smartest dumb comedy ever made — but it comes impressively close. It achieves a nice balance of sticking with what works while not repeating itself too much, and mainly just lets Carrey and Daniels do their thing.