Dumb and Dumber To Peter and Bobby Farrelly

Dumb and Dumber ToPeter and Bobby Farrelly
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They say it takes a smart actor to convincingly play a dumb character, and if that's the case, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels must be some kind of geniuses. Two decades after helping to put the directorial duo of the Farrelly Brothers on the map, the performers slip effortlessly back into their idiotic but admittedly endearing roles in Dumb and Dumber To. Sure, it hews awfully close to the plot of the original and has its share of gags that fall flat, but the sequel retains much of the madcap magic that struck the same puerile spot on the funny bone 20 years ago.

After an underwhelming re-introduction to the characters of Harry Dunne (Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) in which Lloyd is sprung from an institution where he has spent his days since the events of the first film in a seemingly catatonic state, the two dim-witted pals soon find themselves with another reason for a road trip. Learning from an old flame (Kathleen Turner) that Harry fathered a daughter (Rachel Melvin) more than 20 years ago who was subsequently put up for adoption, they set out to find her.

When they eventually end up at the door of the renowned scientist (Steve Tom) who took her in, it's only to discover that they need to continue on to a KEN Conference (apologies to TED) where she is accepting an award on his behalf. Meanwhile, just as in the original, Harry and Lloyd unknowingly become embroiled in the nefarious plans of cartoonish evildoers. This time, it's an asinine scheme to murder the scientist and collect a hefty inheritance that involves his trophy wife (Laurie Holden), the handyman (Rob Riggle) and the handyman's stealthy twin brother.

The story is little more than a loose framework on which to hang various scenes of buffoonery for its two committed co-stars. Carrey seems particularly invigorated to revisit this realm of lowbrow slapstick, turning in the kind of manic performance that made him a star in the first place. Like its predecessor, there are some carefully constructed jokes that pay off down the road, but once again, it's the throwaway lines and antic facial expressions that often earn the biggest reactions.

After building on the success of Dumb & Dumber with a nearly unprecedented hot streak of comedies that included Kingpin and peaked in 1998 with There's Something About Mary, a funny thing happened to the Farrelly brothers. It's not that they weren't still capable of scoring laughs, exactly, but somewhere between Shallow Hal and Hall Pass, they appeared to lose their touch a bit. In returning to familiar territory here, it's nice to see them also tapping back into the same kind of goofy and anarchic energy that was once their recognizable and highly enjoyable trademark.

(Universal)