Movie 4 of Rick the Middle Aged Joker’s 52 Favorite Movies is “Dumb and Dumber,” starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: These are not presented in order; they’re in the order of my whims (really I just try to avoid having similar movies back to back.) I am not saying these are the 52 best movies of all time, they’re just 52 I like to blog about. Previous entries: Fargo, WALL-E, and The Thing.
“Dumb and Dumber” is dumb comedy movie, as the title would suggest. There’s nothing really complicated about it, and it follows an old formula; two idiots get into a heap of trouble because they don’t know what the hell they’ve gotten themselves into.
So, okay, it’s not “Schindler’s List” (which will be among the 52, by the way.) But I again want to return you to Rick’s Central Question About A Movie: Does it do what it was attempting to do? “Dumb and Dumber” just wants to make you laugh with a succession of silly gags. And it succeeds.
I am always eternally surprised by how many comedy movies disappoint me because they don’t have enough gags. They have a bunch of funny jokes in the trailer, and you think “that should be fun,” and then the movie will scatter those jokes around and go for five and ten minute stretches without any particularly good jokes. People walk and talk and do things and no jokes, or no good ones, anyway. Writing jokes is hard, trust me, but if you’re going to spend million of dollars on a movie, surely you could have hired a few hungry young writers to write a few jokes?
Good comedies never stop telling jokes. “Airplane!” has jokes in every scene. “Blazing Saddles” has all kinds of jokes. “A Fish Called Wanda” works jokes in at every opportunity. “Austin Powers” – the first one – tells jokes from start to finish. (You should also watch “Hot Shots” and “Johnny Dangerously.”) Quite often the jokes don’t advance the plot, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is fitting in lots of jokes.
“Dumb and Dumber” has as high a joke-to-minute ratio as any movie I can think of. They never go longer than sixty seconds without a joke, and usually less than thirty. The plot was clearly thought of after most of the jokes were written. Many of the jokes are piled on top of one other so fast you miss them; in one throwaway line, Harry (Daniels) asks Lloyd (Carrey) how his day went, and Lloyd replies, “Fell off the jetway again,” a reference to an earlier, much more elaborate physical joke where he did, indeed, run right off a jetway onto the tarmac pursuing an airplane. It’s a brilliant joke; you could actually use that joke as an example of how to write a joke. It could be part of a comedy writing course curriculum. It’s a callback (since it refers to a scene we saw moments before) it’s inherently funny, it has an extra layer of funny by using the word “again” to imply that this is something Lloyd has a habit of doing, and Carrey’s delivery is completely realistic. And yet the joke is barely said before we get another joke, and another, and another. It’s one of the best jokes ever said in a movie and it’s a throw-in joke Carrey tells with his back to the camera.
The movie is endlessly quotable:
“Hey guys! Big Gulps, huh? Well, see ya later!”
“There’s not a single job in this town! Nothing! Nada! Zip! Unless you wanna work forty hours a week!”
“Why you going to the airport? Flying somewhere?”
“Kick his ass, Seabass!”
“So you’re saying there’s a chance!”
It has other things going for it, too. Carrey and Daniels are wonderful; the ending is great; the movie has a surprisingly good soundtrack; it’s lighthearted and isn’t at all mean or overly crude. It’s a funny movie and a pleasure to watch.
Now, I did name some other great comedies, so why this one? Easy; because this is the comedy by best friend Scott and I always watch when we get together. As he lives in California, a five hour flight away, those are rare treats, and we always put favorite movies on, and one of them is always Dumb and Dumber. Every time I think about this movie I think about him too, and that always makes me smile. What else is life about, right?