After 20-Years, We Need Lloyd and Harry More Than Ever
A recent college grad who has written for The Credits before was born in 1991, making her three years old when Dumb and Dumber was released. When asked if she’d ever seen it, she said, “Duh. I have four older brothers.”
Yet to an editor of a certain age, it seems almost inconceivable that Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber is twenty years old, and that now there’s a sequel. It took a while to realize that perhaps now is the perfect time. Bear in mind that when the idiots Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) were last seen, we were a country obsessed with Tonya Harding and OJ Simpson, and for those of us who were “surfing” the web, we were using Netscape Navigator.
1994 was a really bizarre, awful, intermittently inspiring year. On the plus side, it was the year that saw the IRA declare a cease-fire in Northern Ireland and Nelson Mandela become president of South Africa after winning the first interracial national election. On the negative side, it was…bleak, and this isn’t really the venue for a discussion of Rwanda or the Serbs attacking Sarajevo. Yet what we can say is that with the release of Dumb and Dumber To coming in two weeks, we’re a country that could use some profound silliness. Things at the tail end of 2014 aren’t so rosy, either.
What we can say about 1994 is that, from an entertainment standpoint, it was really Jim Carrey’s year. In this one year Carrey starred in three huge comedy blockbusters; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out in February (spoiler alert: Finkle is Einhorn), The Mask came out in July, and Dumb and Dumber bowed in December. Just like that, Carrey was comedy gold.
It was a weird year for film, with two truly game changing releases in Pulp Fiction and The Lion King. Pulp Fiction is always talked about in how it revived John Travoltra’s career, but it did a lot more than that. Pulp Fiction seemed like nothing else (because it wasn’t), which explains why since its’ release so many filmmakers have attempted to recreate that magic with Tarantino-like multi-narratives populated by cool lowlifes. The Lion King, Disney’s 32nd animated feature, was a landmark achievement for a studio with a slew of them, and a huge international sensation. After it’s initial run, it was the second-highest grossing film of all time behind Jurassic Park, until it was eventually surpassed by Finding Nemo in 2003.
In the same year that Vincent and Jules were tracking down Marcellus Wallace’s mysterious bag; that Simba watched as his father died; that Andy Dufresne was locked up in Shawshank; that Forrest’s mother told him that life was like a box of chocolates; that Julia attended Four Weddings and a Funeral and audiences met a spunky young star named Sandra in a film about a bus that couldn’t slow down or it would explode, you had Lloyd lacing Harry’s coffee with a laxative before a big date; Lloyd and Harry making the most annoying noises ever heard on screen and Lloyd and Harry spraying ketchup and mustard into their mouths after eating atomic peppers.
Dumb and Dumber was a road trip movie about the two moronic best friends trying to get from Providence, Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado, to find Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) and return her briefcase. Lloyd and Harry’s relentless stupidity in each and every situation, magnified by their unwarranted optimism (after Mary tells Lloyd his chances with her are “one in a million,” he pauses to consider his odds, smiles, and says, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance”) and the exuberance with which Carrey and Daniels threw themselves into the absurdity made Dumb and Dumber the rarest of films; an international blockbuster that grossed nearly $250 million worldwide that was also considered a “cult classic.”
And now, after twenty-years, here they come again, stumbling into the theater amid nothing but bad news in the real world, and films about intergalactic travel in an attempt to save humanity, sociopathic music teachers, tragic and somber stories involving mental illness and murder, and not one but two biopics about British geniuses changing the world against all odds and at great expense to their own well-being. In a world that always seems on the brink of some incalculable horror, both onscreen and off, we could all probably use the eternal joy radiating off the two stupidest people on earth.
This is where we last left Lloyd and Harry. Now, “everything but their idiocy has changed,” according to the film’s press notes. Harry needs a kidney, and he learns that he has a daughter out there who might be able to help. But he’ll need his buddy, Lloyd, whose been “comatose” since he was rejected by Mary (guess that one in a million shot didn’t work out) to go on yet another road trip with him. They’ll definitely need the Mutt Cutts van again. Lloyd and Harry must traverse the country to find Harry’s daughter and get him that kidney.
“Dumb and Dumber was not for everybody, but everybody watched it,” Daniels said in the press notes. “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.”
For Carrey, it really wasn’t until he watched the original film from start to finish in a hotel room a few years ago (he’d only really seen bits and pieces up until then) that momentum began to do a sequel. Carrey and Daniels got used to teenagers, tipped off to the film by their parents, approaching them and quoting from the film. “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,” Carrey said.
“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,” said producer Charles B. Wessler, succinctly summing up exactly why we might need them now most.
In the first film, there’s a passing reference to a character by the name of Fraida Felcher, who is mentioned as Harry’s ex-girlfriend (Google her last name if you want to the full extent of the obscene joke). She is described in the script as a “dressed-down Kathleen Turner-type.” Little did the Farrelly brothers realize, the script had gotten to the real Kathleen Turner.
“Honestly, we were never thinking about actually getting her when we wrote the script; it was just a visual aid for the reader,” Peter Farrelly said.
“Well, I can certainly do a Kathleen Turner-type,” Kathleen Turner said, “even dressed-down, so I got my agent on it.”
As Fraida, Turner is playing the mother to the potential kidney donor, but the paternity of the father is still in question. Considering how fantastically stupid she is, “the list of suspects has easily been narrowed to two.”
As Penny Pinchelow, Rachel Melvin met with casting director Rick Montgomery during a commercial shoot in Los Angeles. “He said to me, ‘I have something else you might be good in,” Melvin said in the press notes. “Would you be interested in reading for the Farrelly brothers for Dumb and Dumber To? You seem fun and glib, and I think they would like you.’ The kicker was that I didn’t know what ‘glib’ meant at the time, so I guess I was destined for the part.”
The extent of Melvin’s research for the part of the dull-witten Penny was to watch the first movie. “My parents loved Dumb and Dumber.”
Filmed primarily in and around Atlanta, Daniels arrived on set only 36 hours after winning an Emmy for playing the brilliant Will McAvoy on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. “I went from winning that award about a guy who’s really smart to a guy with an IQ of about 8…it took me a lot more to get into the character of Will than Harry, and that’s a bit frightening that Harry comes so easily. It doesn’t bode well for my twilight years.”
From singing peoples’ eyebrows with his witty, often brutal bon mots as Will McAvoy, Daniels found himself as Harry having ice-cold slushies poured down his pants. For six takes.
On November 14, America will likely be slumping into the holiday season after the depressing midterm elections, distressing news about Ebola and who knows what fresh tragedy, scandal or heartbreak will be breathlessly reported on cable news, but it’s also the day Dumb and Dumber To comes out. Bobby Farrelly says that it’s important for fans to know that with the sequel, there’s been “absolutely no mental growth, no character arc…they have each other and that’s enough to get them through life.” If they get us through a few hours of our own lives without thinking about something awful, they’ll have us, too.
Featured image: Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are back. Courtesy Universal Pictures.