Dumb & Dumber (1994) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor and language
Running Time: 101 min.

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, Karen Duffy, Cam Neely
Small role: Teri Garr, Rob Moran, Lin Shaye, Harland Williams
Director:  Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Screenplay: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Bennett Yellin

Review published June 24, 2003

The Farrelly brothers' (There's Something About Mary, Me Myself & Irene) first film seems to be their least eccentric, and that's saying quite a bit.  Dumb & Dumber is the kind of comedy you watch, not because you want to see a good movie, but just to get some cheap laughs.  Most of the film lives up to its title, a very silly idea for a movie without much plot except to get the two idiots into comic situations.  After the initial lulls, it does occasionally pay off, thanks to the Farrelly brothers ceaseless shenanigans and the talents of the manic Jim Carrey (The Mask, Ace Ventura), who cuts completely loose in a very memorable performance.  No holds are barred in this excursion into the lewd and crude, and how much you enjoy this film will solely depend on your level of tolerance for toilet humor and overall idiocy.

The basic plot of this "road trip" style of movie involves Lloyd (Carrey) working as a limo driver, dropping off Mary (Holly, Sabrina) at the airport for her trip back to Aspen, realizing she has apparently left her briefcase behind.  Lloyd thinks Mary is the woman of his dreams, and out of the potential for love he travels cross-country to find Mary and return her briefcase, with roommate and best friend Harry (Daniels, Speed) at his side.  However, the two buffoons have no idea that the briefcase is full of cash, a ransom payment left by Mary intentionally, and now they have the intended recipients on their tail, while also finding new obstacles and enemies along the way.

The plot has the makings of a broad farce, but even the broadest requires subtlety to deliver much of the humor, and if there is anything that Dumb & Dumber isn't, it's subtle.  Rather than let the comic situations dictate the humor, the Farrelly brothers inject sight gags, fart jokes, sexual innuendo, and loads and loads of silly slapstick.  While there are moments that do evoke some good-natured hilarity, the plot is too much of a contrivance, a bland and derivative device that might be important to push a story along, but becomes too dull to care about whenever the film has to deal with. 

Probably the best part of the film comes from the manic performance by Jim Carrey, and even though it's easy to write off as another silly character in a dumb movie, he actually manages to do a decent job acting.  Lloyd isn't just pathetic, he is also sympathetic.  There is a moment when Carrey begins tearing up out of potential heartbreak, a rare moment where an actor actually gives more than the performance requires.  Yes, he is also off-the-wall crazy, too, with an energy that is ceaseless.  For all of the Farrelly shtick, it's Carrey that provides the right tone and timing for the film, with every other character seeming to fade into nothingness around him.

Dumb & Dumber is a movie that is critic-proof, one of those films that you can either love or hate, depending on your attraction for this level of bad taste.  Although there are some decent chuckles sprinkled throughout, and perhaps one or two that will have you falling out of your chair, unlike most films revolving around a couple of naive idiots, the rest of the film isn't very intelligent, either.  Had these two characters been in a more intricate and crafty plot, this could have been one of the better farces in recent years.  Too bad the Farrelly tradition says to aim as low and dumb as possible, because if their imagination and inventiveness extended into their story as much as their interest in bodily functions, Dumb & Dumber could have been a smart kind of dumb.

-- Followed by a prequel, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo