Dumb and Dumber: America’s Best Ever Slapstick Comedy?!

Dumb and Dumber
Dumber and Dumb.

As slapstick comedies go, Dumb and Dumber is arguably the best one out there. Starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels on perfect form, it’s utterly ridiculous and rather hilarious. Released in 1994, Carrey’s star power had skyrocketed after the Mask and two equally ridiculous Ace Ventura films, whilst Daniels had just starred in Speed and a batch of other high hitting comedies and dramas in the 1980s.

Simply put, it’s one of our favourite comedy films, right up there with Withnail and I and Life of Brian. As a testament to Carrey’s star power at the time, the film cost $17 million and went on to rake in $247 million! It delivered a powerhouse of slapstick stupidity, too, which is what we’re celebrating right here, right now, today. Cripes!

Dumb and Dumber

Right, so there’s a rather flimsy plot here in the name of allowing for increasingly chaotic behaviour. We have Harry Dunne (Daniels), who is dumb, and Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) who is dumber. These two are just about drifting through life in mundane jobs, but limo driver Carrey has a chance meeting with the, honestly, quite stunning Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly, who Carrey briefly married) and this triggers off a road movie.

This isn’t Easy Rider, though, this is more a chance to let Carrey and Daniels riff off each other. The barely noticeable plot involves the hapless duo getting caught up in a ransom deal (which is actually quite clever, when you do stop to think about it), but you’re really there to just watch the two stars behave like complete morons. And it’s fabulous.

It’s also an uplifting and life affirming film, as the two best mates cement their love for each other despite both falling for the girl. You’re really carried along with events and can’t help but love these two idiots. This love is helped along by a time-capsule of a soundtrack, which picked up on early ’90s bands such as the Crash Test Dummies and its peculiar hit song Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm (used to fine effect in the film, as Harry and Lloyd have a brief tiff which is, surprisingly, quite moving).

The script was written by the Farrelly brothers and Bennett Yellin, but with Carrey on board there was plenty of room for ad libbing. He was, of course, from the stand up circuit where his rubber faced and eccentric behaviour quickly got him noticed as something of a comedic genius. Once he hit Saturday Night Live, not much could hold him back.

His antics worked a great deal in the ridiculous Ace Ventura films (a big hit with audiences, but panned by critics) and then Dumb and Dumber. The Mask is great fun, too, and was a big deal at the time due to the newfangled special effects.

Not that there was any CGI in Dumb and Dumber, rightly so! One of the most famous scenes is the below, which was ad-libbed by Mr. Carrey – don’t need computers for that, though, even with Lloyd’s chipped tooth, which is actually Carrey’s in real life (he wears one of those caps on it when not starring in goofball comedies).

Now, a bit about the other actor! Carrey insisted his double act be Jeff Daniels, despite the latter not typically being in screwball comedies. He’s actually a really terrific actor, as you can see from when he starred in one of the best indie flicks of 2005 with the fabulous Laura Linney – the Squid and the Whale (we’ll probably get to that at some point). More recently, he’s been in Looper and the Martian.

He’s excellent in Dumb and Dumber, too, and for the legendary diarrhea scene, he later apologised to Clint Eastwood for the juvenile behaviour (when the two met at some awards ceremony), but Eastwood reported it had happened to him once. So all was well! Dirty Harry, indeed.

Although Dumb and Dumber has a great flow to it, it’s not one you turn up to in order to analyse the plot. It’s simply a hilarious film, possibly the funniest from the 1990s, which was also met with mixed critical reactions at the time, but remains much loved by audiences. We can’t believe it’s been over 20 years, but we’re going to state this one never ages. It’s awesome. Awesome to the max.

Jim Carrey

Carrey was at his peak in the 1990s, but things have trailed off a bit since the brilliant 2004 surreal romp Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. That was arguably his career high point, but he’s gone on to star in some decent things (Yes Man, Bruce Almighty etc.) and had strange bit parts in films such as Kick-Ass 2 (which he refused to promote, post-production, due to the violence within).

There was also the rubbish, belated sequel Dumb and Dumber To (2014) which we shan’t talk about, the same goes for the recent issues in Carrey’s private life as they’ve got nothing to do with us. He has, however, starred in the rather fascinating documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, which is available on Netflix. He’s also doubling up as a philosopher these days, but his enthusiasm is intact and let’s hope he has a few more serious acting roles in him. 

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