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Very few movies have titles that so perfectly encompass the sum of all of its parts like 1994‘s Dumb and Dumber. It is one of the most iconic and recognizable comedy films to come out of the massive slew of 90’s comedies, and some dated shtick, still holds up as an entertaining, though extremely frustrating film. It also marks the first of many classic Farrell brother movies (There’s Something About Mary, Osmosis Jones, Hall Pass, Shallow Hal, etc.)
The story focuses on two best friends, Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas, who are extremely low on both cash and brains and living in a dumpy hotel in Los Angeles. The most appealing aspect of Lloyd’s character is that, despite being for lack of a better word, a complete idiot, he is dreamer. His expectations of what life has to offer him are romantic, however improbable they may seem. Harry is just as likeable, but serves as the more grounded character throughout the movie, often doubting Lloyd’s fanciful notions and reticent to carry them out.
Harry and Lloyd’s story begins as so many do: with a misunderstanding of identity. After a joyride from hell through the streets of Providence, Rhode Island, limo driver Lloyd drops off his passenger, Mary Swanson, with whom Lloyd is hopelessly smitten. When she leaves her suitcase in the middle of the airport terminal, the chivalric Lloyd, assuming that she has done so by accident, tries to earn her favor by giving it back to her. Unfortunately, Mary boards her plane before he can do so, and Lloyd returns home in a fit of monomania, fixated on traveling to Aspen to give it back. Hilariously, neither Harry nor Lloyd know where Aspen is or how to even spell it. Regardless, they decide to hop into Harry’s dog-mobile (Harry was previously a dog-groomer, so of course his car is shaped like a big, furry pup) to embark on an epic quest for love.
Since the heroes are ignorant to everything else going on around them, it is no surprise to find out that they have inadvertently thrust themselves in a ransom exchange: yes, the suitcase at the airport was meant to be left there, and the criminal pair charged with picking it up are not very happy about seeing a chipped-tooth oaf running off with their payload. Naturally, they assume that Lloyd is involved with some other criminal enterprise and has taken the suitcase (which is filled with cash, by the way) for his own ends.
The assumption that Harry and Lloyd are criminal masterminds is, by itself, hilarious. As the two make their way across the country, the criminals are on their heels, marveling at the seeming ingenuity of the mysterious men in the dog-car. Every time Harry and Lloyd seem about to enter a scrape, some dumb (emphasis on dumb) luck gets them out of it. Whether it be a speeding ticket, a café fistfight, or a poisoning, the two friends walk away unscathed and completely unaware that they are leaving a trail of chaos behind them. Their obliviousness to reality is coupled with an attitude of profundity in their actions. Lloyd especially seems to regard their journey as extremely significant, and never pauses to consider the consequences of anything he does.
Somehow Dumb and Dumber manages to draw the viewer into the blissfully ignorant world of Harry and Lloyd, where nothing has consequences and everything just seems to work out. The strength of their friendship, even at the most trying of times, and their dauntless persistence makes them extremely likable, even when driving us completely crazy. The fact that two guys who give a blind child in a wheelchair a dead bird for a pet can still be likable certainly speaks to this.
The witless pair end their journey in Aspen, where they inadvertently foil a kidnapping plot and help the FBI catch the bad guys. After every other inconceivable misadventure, it makes sense.
Harry and Lloyd’s corny jokes and toilet humor are quaint and amusing for the most part, but anyone with an impatient disposition will likely be driven as crazy as the majority of supporting characters in the film. The inherent stupidity and constant, outrageous antics are purposefully grating; nevertheless, it is hard not to find the over-the-top, energetic performances of Carey and Daniels entertaining.
The movie is a classic largely for the reason that it is genuinely fun to watch. Dumb and Dumber has since set a precedent for the goof ball comedy duo flicks that have since come to pass. It sparked a slew of great comedies from the legendary Farrelly brothers, and has pushed our patience to its most extreme limits for over 20 years. No comedy collection is complete without the cheesy grins of Harry and Lloyd.
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