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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
In 20 Years Later, I will take a look at the cultural impact films have had in the two decades since their theatrical releases. I invite Nick to join in on the fun as well! Our first film covered in this new feature is Dumb and Dumber, the influential 1994 mega-hit that featured Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels and was directed by the Farrelly brothers, who would go on to make several other films of varying quality over the next two decades. Their latest film, Dumb and Dumber To, just happens to be a sequel to their most popular (arguably) film, and I have absolutely zero intention of seeing it in theaters because it looks horrible. But first, the original must be discussed.
In December of 1994, Jim Carrey scored his third big hit of the year with Dumb and Dumber, a comedy by the Farrelly brothers that met with mixed critical reception but enormous box office success and popular acclaim, grossing almost 250 million dollars worldwide against a budget of only 17 million (seven of which went to Carrey’s salary, amazingly). I, and every kid I knew, fell in love with the film, and Jim Carrey became everyone’s favorite comedic actor and a physical comedy tour-de-force in the process. The film would go on to become tremendously influential, immensely quotable, and a cable TV staple. It would also spawned a short-lived cartoon series, a prequel film no one asked for (made by a completely different creative crew), and a recently released sequel, which just happened to coincide with career low-points for everyone involved except co-star Jeff Daniels.
But would Dumb and Dumber as a film hold up to scrutiny after two decades and hundreds and hundreds of comedy films in its wake? That’s the question that needs exploring. Let’s take a look first at what holds up in the film before the bad stuff.
So, What Holds Up?:
The performances definitely hold up – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are still great as Lloyd and Harry. The two give amazing physical performances and are both genuinely hilarious in their roles. There’s a reason why the two actors became so closely associated with this movie. Co-star Lauren Holly is also cute as all get out, though her role is much smaller than I remember it being from when I was a kid. It’s hard to believe that she didn’t go on to bigger and better things. I would have loved to see her in more high profile roles.
The physical comedy also holds up. It’s pretty obvious that the Farrelly brothers have an affinity for the Three Stooges, as Harry and Lloyd are clearly modeled after Stooge-like characters and updated for the 90s. I’m not a fan of particularly mean-spirited comedy, and Dumb and Dumber ventures off into that territory at points, but it doesn’t cross over into being unfunny. Many of the gags are still hilarious, and some of the more subtle looks characters give each other went completely unnoticed by me until this critical viewing. Jim Carrey can make a hell of a goofy face as well.
And What Doesn’t Hold Up?:
The fashion, the music, the directorial style – it’s all so very 1990s. In many ways the Farrellys never completely moved on from this style either. All of their subsequently released movies, including Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, and Me, Myself, and Irene look almost exactly the same and follow the same format essentially. Two of those three movies even have a road trip element to them. It’s like they found something comfortable and stuck with it for most of their careers. Dumb and Dumber isn’t directed in any way that makes it stand out from the crowd whatsoever. Even Carrey’s other two 1994 megahits, Ace Ventura and especially The Mask, have directorial flourishes that make them stand out in some way.
I realize it’s really unfair to fault a film for its time period, but early 90s fashion is about as bad as it gets. At one point Jeff Daniels dons a hot pink ski suit and it looks absolutely horrid. Additionally, none of the villains are particularly noteworthy or worth remembering. The female villain, J.P. Shay (played by actress Karen Duffy), disappears halfway through the film and doesn’t factor into the plot after that. Lead villain Andre, played with a layer of sliminess by actor Charles Rocket, isn’t developed enough by the script to be particularly menacing or threatening.
So, What’s the Assessment?:
Dumb and Dumber isn’t as funny as I remember in some places, but it’s also extremely funny in other places I had forgotten about in the years since I last watched it. It’s easy to see why it’s considered a comedy classic, even if it veers into territory I don’t always find particularly funny. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are great in it and the script is surprisingly focused – the film doesn’t lag in any one particular area. The Farrelly brothers’ directing style never progressed beyond the 90s and the film certainly shows its age in that respect, but I still find Dumb and Dumber to be a funny movie regardless (in much the way I still like films like Sixteen Candles). Just because it’s a time capsule doesn’t make it bad. It has it faults, but it’s still pretty damn funny.