When exactly we became obsessed with diarrhea and premature ejaculation can never really be pinpointed, but Peter and Bobby Farrelly are prime suspects. He was more than happy to shovel the laughs that come from every humiliation, every bodily function and every unnatural act in the book, and why the hell not? We loved it in the '90s and we love it even more today. More than ever, we have Dumb & Dumber to blame for being a spark that ignited a flaming fart of laughter.
As a debut, it did exactly what it needed to do: It announced the director's intentions in film. The Farrelly brothers wanted inspired vulgarity, laughs mixed equally with disgust. And for awhile there, they had it; Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary were pioneering efforts in the history of gross-out cinema. Lately, however, the Farrelly Brothers have become tame and inoffensive, bothering themselves with misguided causes (Shallow Hal) and dull remakes (Fever Pitch). Peter, Bobby, we need you back, and in a hurry.
Dumb & Dumber starts with its heroes getting fired. Harry (Jeff Daniels) was a dog groomer and transporter while Lloyd (Jim Carrey) drove a limo. While Harry gets canned for covering dogs with mustard and other condiments, Lloyd meets the love of his life, Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly). When he drops her off at the airport, he picks up a briefcase that he thinks she has misplaced and tries to get it to her before she leaves, in a hysterical running scene that ends with him falling onto the runway. The briefcase becomes the center of the plot as Lloyd and Harry travel to Aspen to return the briefcase to Mary, while outrunning a pair of assassins.
What makes a film like Dumb & Dumber stronger than current comedies like Old School is that the plot is never overstretched; everything in Dumb & Dumber seems to have the possibility of actually happening, or isn't major enough to affect the plot in any way. Jim Carrey has since flattened out a bit, giving strong, surprisingly sincere turns in both The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the wild man still holds a warm spot in my heart. A movie like The Mask contained him behind a green mask but Dumb & Dumber sets Carrey loose and lets the audience stand in awe of the sparks (especially the ones from nail clipping). It's also a surprising turn for Daniels, who tends to work better with deadpan and subtle comedy, but here he matches Carrey step for step in profound goofiness.
The big downside, of course, is that we can see a lot of these laughs coming, and they don't hold much staying power. As far as mindless humor goes, it's got all the right moves, but it never tries to do more than that. The reason There's Something About Mary is always considered with greater prestige is that it was based on a universe of characters, each with specific comic talents that hit every sort of humor one could ask for. Dumb & Dumber is sadly contained only to Harry and Lloyd, playing off the straight man, which is the entire world besides them. Still, you have to admire an overload of goofiness once in awhile, like the occasional candy binge that leads to the sugar high. If there's any humor left in the world, those candies will more than likely be made out of some animal's bodily fluids.