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Dumb and Dumber Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 May 1997

Dumb and Dumber

New Line Home Video
MPAA rating: PG-13
starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Mike Starr, Karen Duffy, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell
release year: 1994
film rating: Three and a half stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren

Although it was preceded by Kingpin, it was Dumb and Dumber that put the Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) on the movie map. This often hilarious, usually tasteless comedy was a hit the world over, and was a further boost to Jim Carrey's rise to major stardom. (Doesn't seem to have done a damned thing for Jeff Daniels, though.)

Carrey is Lloyd Christmas and Daniels is Harry Dunne, two friends and roommates living, sort of, in Providence, Rhode Island, with dreams of opening "I've Got Worms," where they hope to get rich by selling worm farms, squirmy equivalents of ant farms. It's lucky that Lloyd and Harry have found each other, because no one else would put up with them: they're spectacularly stupid, hence the title. Lloyd is a bit more presentable in public, mostly because his haircut passes muster (Harry's looks like an unkept haystack), but Harry may be a shade smarter -- he certainly can read better. But they're a good match overall; they like each other, and occasionally they impress one another by doing something remarkable, like having an idea.

Briefly working as a chauffeur -- he has a tendency to turn around and chat with his passengers -- Lloyd ends up with a briefcase left behind at the airport by Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly), whom he decides he loves. He tells Harry he talked with a woman. "No way!" says Harry. The two goofs don't know that the briefcase is stuffed with money, a ransom for a kidnap victim. Mary herself has gone on to Aspen, where she meets with family friend Nicholas Andre (Charles Rocket), unaware that he's the mastermind behind the kidnap plot.

Lloyd decides to take the briefcase to Mary, and he sets out with Harry in the van Harry has converted into a giant sheep dog. They're pursued by Joe (Mike Starr) and Shay (Karen Duffy), two killers working for Andre, who become convinced that Lloyd and Harry are brilliant schemers.

As written by the Farrellys and Bennett Yellin, Dumb and Dumber works best while Lloyd and Harry are on the road and under constant danger, which they never recognize. Once they get to Aspen, the pace slows down; there are still funny moments, but the rivalry between Lloyd and Harry for the attentions of the puzzled Mary isn't as much fun as their trip across the country. At 109 minutes, the movie is also overlong for this kind of thing, and you can find your attention wandering as the two try to outmaneuver one another. It's too bad the threat-to-our-boys plot didn't stay in gear; maybe the Farrellys should have looked at some old Abbott & Costello or Martin & Lewis movies for plot tips.

They didn't need to look elsewhere for gags. Dumb and Dumber is adept at coming up with new ways to demonstrate the chumps' idiocy, both in terms of action (though it doesn't cross the line into slapstick -- maybe it should have) and dialog. After Joe kills Harry's parakeet (fortunately, off-screen), Harry is dismayed: "his head fell off!" Later, Lloyd longs for a place "where beer flows like wine." He has a long fantasy that involves doves, kung fu, lousy jokes, lit farts and a nice pair of headlights.

The Farrellys are notoriously fond of gross-out jokes, and there are several of them here, such as the scene in which Lloyd has to urinate into a bunch of beer bottles, and what happens when he gives hapless Harry an overdose of a laxative. (This scene crossed the line for many people; fortunately, video allows you to fast-forward through all of it.) They also love scenes involving tampering with food, with cataclysmic results.

But the real triumph of Dumb and Dumber is that the Farrellys love these guys. Lloyd and Harry are indeed as stupid as two logs, but they're also sweet-natured, friendly, outgoing and likable; if they have any real precedents in comedy team movies, it's Laurel & Hardy, who were always lovable. Some of the imitators of the Farrellys have missed this idea altogether, and their films have been deeply obnoxious rather than funny. With There's Something About Mary, the brothers made it even clearer that they understand that if you want to go with the potty jokes, you have to have characters we like, not ones we feel contempt for.

Carrey and Daniels are downright lovable; we don't want anything bad to happen to these guys, and that's the real secret of comedy. Who the hell cares what happens to characters we don't like? They might be funny, but that's all they are. We might not want to run into Lloyd, we certainly feel superior to them, but they're our pals, and if they can't succeed, at least we don't want to see them hurt.

The DVD includes a handsome, very sharp transfer -- especially helpful for Mark Irwin's fine photography -- and two trailers; the one for the international market omits all verbal gags. There are some biographies, the usual language choices (so you can find out what these guys sound like in French, if that's your idea of a good time). Although comedies always work better with a crowd, if you liked this movie in other forms, you'll like it on DVD as well.

more details
aspect ratio(s):
Includes both panned & scanned and letterboxed prints
special features: interactive menus; language options; two trailers; biographical information
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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