Film Review: Dumb and Dumber (1994)


In lives of many film critics, especially those of more elitist persuasion, comes a moment when they realise that they are throwing pearls before the swines. All their work in trying to nurture more refined audience able to appreciate intelligent and quality films comes for a naught when masses get easily seduced by PR machine and star power and instead opt for cheap entertainment pandering to lowest common denominator. In 1994 such moment was provided by Dumb and Dumber, 1994 comedy directed by Peter Farrelly, film that became one of the biggest hit of its time despite object of disdain by many renowned critics.

The plot begins in Providence, Rhode Island and two protagonists are limo driver Lloyd Christmas (played by Jim Carrey) and his best friend and room mate, dog groomer Harry Dunne (played by Jeff Daniels). They aren’t particularly intelligent and because of that they tend to lose jobs and are forced to live in rundown apartment. One day Harry drives beautiful rich woman Mary Swanson (played by Lauren Holly) and notices that she left her briefcase at the airport. Partly because he is smitten with her, he decides to return briefcase to her and isn’t discouraged by not knowing anything about her except that she lives in Aspen. He decides to travel across the country together with Harry who was, like him, conveniently fired from his job. Lloyd and Harry don’t know that the briefcase actually contains huge stash of money, which was actually kidnap ransom and deliberately left by Mary. Kidnapping was organised by wealthy Aspen resident Nicholas Andre (played by Charles Rocket) and two of his associates – Joe “Mental” Mentallino (played by Mike Starr) and J. P. Shay (played by Karen Duffy) are trying to track down Lloyd and Harry and get the briefcase.

Dumb and Dumber was directorial feature debut for Peter Farrelly who would soon afterwards with his brother Bobby Farrelly (who co-wrote script with Peter and Bennett Yellin) become one of the more successful sibling duos of 1990s Hollywood. Like many such debuts, film had relatively low budget, but largest chunk of it was taken by Jim Carrey’s 7 million US$ salary; such expense proved to be quite justified because Carrey, then at the height of his popularity, managed to bring masses to the theatres. Many critics complained about the script and film being properly described by its title. Some elements of such criticism are justified – plot is rather weak and the road film structure is used as an excuse for series of gags of varied quality. While some humour might be branded sexist, homophobic or “politically incorrect” from today’s perspective, the most memorable scenes are those, like in Farrelly Brothers’ later film There Is Something About Mary that deal with various bodily fluids, thus making this film one of the earlier examples of “gross out comedy”, trend that would be established in 1990s Hollywood and continue to this day. Dumb and Dumber is relatively long for a comedy but Farrellys manage to bring sufficient number of gags for some of them to work and entertain the audience. The greatest asset of the film is, of course, Jim Carrey and not only because of his star power, but also because of his comic talent that, at least on few occasions, manages to bring audience sympathy to his terminally stupid and often obnoxious character. The real unsung hero of Dumb and Dumber is, however, Jeff Daniels, actor by that time specialised in serious dramas who was enthusiastic at opportunity to play silly character in silly comedy. Carrey and Daniels, despite both playing stupid characters, somehow establish good “buddy buddy” dynamic. Same can be said of Lauren Holly, actress who, despite playing straight character, has good chemistry with Carrey (whom she would later marry). Dumb and Dumber is generally entertaining film, although it that might not be the case for audience already accustomed to its brand of humour. Commercial success of Dumb and Dumber led to short lived animated television series, 2007 prequel Dumb and Dumber: When Harry Met Lloyd (starring Erik Christian Olsen and Derek Richardson) and 2014 sequel Dumb and Dumber To with Carrey and Daniels repeating their roles.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

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