Dumb and Dumber To: Sequel to the 1994 Cult Classic

Dumb_And_Dumber_To_posterThe 1994 release of Dumb and Dumber is unique in movie history. Grossing almost $250 million worldwide, it became a bona fide box-office smash, yet, it is still described as a cult classic.

As the comedy became a staple of video collections and a regular presence on Cable Television, it retained fans from its original theatrical release while simultaneously garnering another generation of Mutt Cutters who loved the quotable lines and best friendship they found among two simpletons on a road trip.

Although the creative team behind the first movie considered, pondered and chewed on a next chapter for the unlikely heroes, it would take decades before the stars would align and the sequel would begin production.

Jeff Daniels was alternately flummoxed and unsurprised by the first movie’s success. “Dumb and Dumber was not for everybody, but everybody watched it,” relays Daniels. “When we made it, we all thought 14-year-old boys would be impressed, but who knew the demographic would be from 8 to 80? I have businessmen coming up to me in the airport to tell me that it is their favorite movie, and I think that’s because the Farrellys tapped into Lloyd and Harry’s sense of innocence. We all felt a lot of pressure if and when we made the next film.”

Looking back 20 years, Daniels acknowledges that he, Jim Carrey and the Farrellys struck exactly the right nerve with the first movie.  No one would agree to a sequel until the time was right and they had exactly the right story to tell. “Pete and Bobby guessed right a lot on the first one,” he says, “but they truly know what’s funny now and what works and why it will work.”

Momentum for a sequel gained speed a few years ago when Carrey found himself in a hotel room watching the comedy on television. “I had seen bits and pieces of Dumb and Dumber a number of times,” he explains, “but this time I sat and watched it and was laughing and couldn’t believe some of the stuff we did. We captured lightning in a bottle.”

In recent years, Daniels and Carrey have often been approached by teens enthralled with the movie that they were introduced to by their parents. Carrey says: “Lloyd and Harry have just stayed with people and were even closer to me than I realized. It’s great to feel the love people have for them. These characters have become like furniture in people’s homes, so it’s not like we’re going to have to educate people about the first movie and these characters.”

Producer Charles B. Wessler, who has worked with the Farrellys for more than 20 years—on films from There’s Something About Mary to Stuck on You and The Three Stooges—reflects on exactly why the first film struck a chord with so many: “One of the cornerstones of what made Dumb and Dumber work as a comedy is that Lloyd and Harry are too old to be this stupid and still live in this world and somehow survive.”

Two decades ago, Wessler’s production partner, Bradley Thomas, saw what audiences across the world have seen since the launch of the first film. “You’re always concerned about actors’ chemistry the first time you see them,” the producer says. “With Jim and Jeff, we already knew their chemistry was fantastic. I was there for the first take, watched it, and immediately they were Harry and Lloyd.”

Peter Farrelly explains what so interests us in these characters’ lives, and why we find them so damned funny: “Lloyd and Harry live with such joie de vivre, and people everywhere love seeing that spirit. Despite that Lloyd and Harry are constantly trying to put one over on the other, they care for each other and they’re all that each other has. There’s something about that which opens your heart to them and makes them really lovable.”

Over the years, Peter and Bobby Farrelly discussed ideas for a follow-up film, but they remained clear about one thing: Unless they could ensure that a perfect script was crafted, they wouldn’t consider a sequel. While, to all parties involved, 20 years later just seemed like the right time for the sequel to happen, the filmmakers were all too aware of what made the first movie so beloved…and didn’t want to tarnish fans’ comic experience with our heroes. Peter Farrelly reached out to Bennett Yellin, the brothers’ collaborator on the first film, and advised him of a plotline that involved Harry and Lloyd looking for a possible love child because Harry needed a new kidney.

Alongside Sean Anders & John Morris, who had written on Carrey’s recent family film, Mr. Poppers’ Penguins, and Mike Cerrone, with whom the brothers had collaborated on Me, Myself & Irene and The Three Stooges, the reunion story began the process of taking comic shape. The core team, led by producers Wessler and Thomas, was reunited, and it was full steam ahead.

The Farrellys settled on the simplest premise that would allow for Carrey and Daniels to do what they do best: The tale would pick up 20 years later, and the guys are middle-aged and still stupid. “Because of what Jim and Jeff did in the first movie, we knew the bar was set high and we worked a long time on the script and then brought in friends to help out, then we went to work with Jim for a bit,” recalls Bobby Farrelly. “The key thing for people to know is that Lloyd and Harry are still good-hearted guys. But since we’ve last seen them, there’s absolutely no mental growth, no character arc. Still, they have each other and that’s enough to get them through life.”

Carrey explains this preproduction period: “Pete and Bob do fantastic work as a team, and somehow when the three of us got together, jamming on the script, I had forgotten how much fun it was. We all said, ‘Why aren’t we doing this all the time? This is fantastic.’” Yellin, who co-wrote the first movie and returns for this chapter, crafts an apt analogy: “Like fine wine, like a pickle, like cheese, this movie had to wait for a certain amount of time to be just right. The amount of time taken to develop and write it all worked in our favor.”

Red Granite Pictures principals Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland liked what they saw during the development process and felt that this project would be a great opportunity to get involved with a classic comedy. They joined the producing team and were able to collaborate both creatively and physically. While the first comedy was released by New Line Cinema, the sequel would have its home at Universal Pictures. “Dumb and Dumber

To retains the DNA of the first movie, but the Farrellys added pieces that enhance the original concept,” says Aziz. “We’re not trying to trick audiences that it’s still 1994. In reality and in the movie, it’s 20 years later.” Fellow producer McFarland appreciates that the team was holding dear to what made the guys so lovable and nonsensically hilarious. “Harry and Lloyd are politically incorrect, and they’re awkward and obviously dumb,” he says, “but it all adds up to an innocence that they cling to because they don’t know any better.”

The production team wasn’t interested in topping the first movie; they wanted to do right by it…and the legions of fans. That meant that the Farrellys would take much longer with the development of this script. “We knew we had to make it special,” says Bobby Farrelly. And in the right element, Carrey is arguably indefatigable as a comic force, much appreciated by the comic writers. “The real reason is that Jim is never satisfied with what you have. He’s always thinking, pacing around the set trying to figure out something more than what we gave him.”

Carrey explains this energy: “My work ethic comes from being absolutely desperate to make something interesting happen in every scene. I have a lot of partners in crime with me on this one, particularly Pete and Bob, who are just a different ilk of people. They’re the oddest leaders you’d ever want to follow, but they’re so welcoming and cool to everyone.”

Carrey also found a willing partner in comedy crime with Daniels, who was methodical about creating logic for a character who, on the face of it, was devoid of it. “I’m always following, reacting to Jim and his brilliant comedy mind, and that’s how it is with Lloyd and Harry. Harry is always a half of a second behind Lloyd, and it works beautifully,” notes Daniels. “We created the chemistry between the characters, and the friendship is there off-camera because we genuinely like each other; that translates when the camera rolls.”

The performer’s admiration for Daniels sounds much like the qualities others have ascribed to Carrey. He notes: “The thing about Jeff is that he’s totally committed. He’s not afraid to go there. That’s important because a movie like this is not talking about what happens, it’s about setting things up and playing them out to the fullest so that the audience says, ‘I can’t believe they’re doing that.’”