“Dumb and Dumber To,” the sequel no one wanted for the past 20 years, is pretty asinine even by the standards of a movie with a misspelling and the word “dumb” twice in its title. It makes children who sound too young to be at a PG-13 movie laugh aloud in dark theaters, so it has that going for it. Of course that was also the case for its predecessor, in 1994, because jokes about blind kids, excretion, messy eating and road trip excesses never die, they just get wrinkly and grow another chin.
Bobby and Peter Farrelly share the writing credits and once again co-direct, loosely. Scenes move too slowly, shots seem haphazard. The first 20 minutes feel like a stitched-together series of rejected, awkward “Saturday Night Live” sketches. Our idiot-heroes Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) reunite at the psychiatric hospital where Lloyd has been catatonic for two decades. Harry, after all these years, tells Lloyd that a health issue is going to keep him from visiting anymore, sorry buddy. This rouses Lloyd to speak for the first time in a generation, with a big ol’ gotcha — it’s all been a ruse, maintained even through countless visits and diaper changes, thanks Harry.
We soon learn, though, that Harry’s got kidney probs that are going to need a transplant on the quick. They check with Harry’s estranged parents (who, for reasons that become obvious, are not the genetic match he’d hoped) and find, via an old postcard, that Harry has a grown daughter he has never met. Her photo turns out to be flagrantly cute (Rachel Melvin plays her as a thorough space cadet) and immediately becomes the object of Lloyd’s romantic daydreams, once again perhaps the funniest thing in the movie. Off they go to find this marvelous, kidney-growing specimen, this time driving a borrowed hearse to traverse America. Again, they run across scheming rich folks, made dangerous by a murderous Rob Riggle.
If you can get past the occasional flat-as-dropped-Fanta readings by all the actors involved, including Carrey and Daniels (who in other movies are, you know, legit actors), you’ll find it’s all too unabashedly doofy to really loathe, even if during I did hear, during one particularly odious scene in a nursing home, an exasperated woman in the row behind me blurt, “Oh, my God. This is terrible,” a cry that triggered a peal of giggles from the man sitting beside her. These are probably the two camps you’re going to find at “Dumb and Dumber To,” actually: People who can’t believe they paid to see it, and people who find themselves laughing anyway. In that Venn diagram, the healthy overlap is going to be most of us.
Happily, if you manage to quiet your internal “this is terrible” voice (promise it a whiskey and an hour reading Vanity Fair, if you must), you will get some guffaws out of “Dumb and Dumber To.” The second half of the movie picks up its feet, at least — while many of the jokes are puerile and obvious, at least the Farrelly brothers think they’re funny, and put a little effort into them. The plot includes one, maybe two, maybe as many as three actual twists, depending on how generously you want to count.
Then stick around for (and through) the credits, which might be the most affecting passage in the film, in which scenes from the original movie are juxtaposed against shots from the sequel. How young Carrey and Daniels looked! And how gleefully stupid! As we all were 20 years ago, whether we knew it or not.