Throwback Thursday –A Look Back at Dumb & Dumber (1994)

In light of the premiere of  Dumb & Dumber To [not a misspelling]  (“D&DT”) tomorrow, my family and I watched the original Dumb & Dumber (“D&D”) from 1994 a couple of days ago.  I hadn’t seen the movie in years, and wondered how well it would hold up in the 20 years since it first came out. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still laughing at it.  (Yes, I know that there was a 2003 prequel, Dumb & Dumberer, but this is the only time I will mention it.)

In short, D&D is the story of two not-so-bright guys, Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey), who make a cross-country trip to return a briefcase to a woman whom Lloyd considers “the love of his life”. [An aside – until I did some research, I completely forgot that Jim Carrey was briefly married to Lauren Holly, who played the love interest in the movie.]  The briefcase, of course, is a MacGuffin that serves to propel the story.  It wasn’t until I saw the movie again that I realize the similarity of this film to a couple of Hitchcock films, particularly North by Northwest.  Of course, the guys in D&D were the polar opposite of the sophisticated characters played by Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in the Hitchcock film.

As with all Farrelly brothers’ comedies, this film isn’t for everyone (and you know who you are).  Scatological and just plain gross humor abounds here.  And like the later There’s Something About Mary (1998), the audience is definitely laughing at, not with, the main characters.  And that’s okay, because despite Harry and Lloyd’s “dumb” demeanor, each of the characters has enough guile and street smarts for the audience to see them in a comedic, rather than sympathetic, light.  We see, for example, that Harry and Lloyd are capable of stabbing each other in the back to get ahead.

I always wondered how the Farrelly brothers managed to get Jeff Daniels to play against type in the D&D.  In 1994, Daniels was probably best known for being Debra Winger’s jerky husband in Terms of Endearment (1983).  His pleasantly WASP-y façade isn’t what you would consider as suitable for a crude slapstick comedy.  I can only imagine that doing D&DT was probably a nice break from the serious character he plays on Aaron Sorkin’s  talky, somnambulant (at least to me) The Newsroom.  At least Daniels’ character Harry has a slightly better hairstyle this time around.

In contrast to Daniels, at the time of D&D, Jim Carrey was riding the crest of his comedy career.  Carrey’s Lloyd was definitely the protagonist (and the dumber one) of D&D, given the box office success of films such as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (1994).  Carrey has seen less success in recent years, however.  Maybe by returning to the scene of this well-remembered and extensively referenced movie, Moe Howard-style bowl cut and all, Carrey will finally get his comeback.  (If so, I hope Eddie Murphy pays attention – Coming to America Too, anyone?)

I admit that I won’t rush out and see D&DT this weekend. My son wants me to see Big Hero 6 with him, and I don’t like going to see a film opening weekend.  But I do hope that the film is as funny as the original, and does well at the box office.  D&DT is definitely a much-needed break from omnipresent big action films, as well as the serious Oscar contenders that dominate the theaters this time of year.

Lynne a.k.a. Poprocker1

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