New Line // 1994 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // September 9th, 1999
For Harry and Lloyd every day is a no-brainer.
If you had a bad day, then this is the disc for you! Only the most serious sourpuss will be able to resist the cheerfully goofy charms of Dumb and Dumber, which has been made into another nice DVD from the folks at New Line.
Okay, I admit it. This has to rank among one of my more guilty pleasures -- it's silly, goofy, moronic, and a delightful change of pace. It is so full-bore silly that it succeeds, without the distracting self-importance or cumbersome social messages that would have wrecked it. Hollywood would do well to keep this in mind, namely that the goal of a comedy is to be funny, and that all else is secondary.
While I have at various times decried the recent trend in gross-out comedy, and perhaps Dumb and Dumber helped build the trend, I think it dances up to the line but not over. Yes, of course, there is a great helping of potty humor (most notably with a scene involving Jeff Daniels, his range of facial expression, and a heaping serving of "TurboLax"), but it does not shove the bodily functions in your face and exalt shock at the expense of humor. This is a point Mike Myers followed in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery but promptly forgot when he wrote Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
The story is not the strongest point of the movie, but it is sufficient to keep us moving from laugh to laugh. It's mostly an extended excuse to give Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels repeated opportunities to be outrageously silly and stupid while their cohorts play it so very straight around them. That is where the strength of the acting is seen, where the lead actors are so off-the-wall but without smirking self-awareness while the rest of the cast (most notably Lauren Holly) react as normal people might to this pair of dorks I can only imagine how hard it was to play a scene with either Carrey or Daniels (or both!) with a straight face.
Now, speaking of the story...Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) are quite possibly the dimmest bulbs on the planet, but somehow they manage to survive. On one fateful day in Providence, R.I., Harry is fired from his dog grooming job and Lloyd from his job as a chauffeur after spectacularly stupid mishaps. All is not bad, because Lloyd met the girl of his dreams, Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly), driving her to the airport. He is so smitten with her that he rescues a briefcase she drops in the airport concourse, but he finds only the hard concrete of the tarmac when he tries to give it back to her -- the plane already left!
Returning home, Lloyd and Harry share their sorrows over some cheap beer, but bail out the window when vaguely menacing characters, Joe Mentalino (Mike Starr) and J.P. Shay (Karen Duffy) pay a visit. Turns out that they were at the airport to collect the briefcase, which contains ransom money for Mary Swanson's husband who was secretly kidnapped by her family friend Nicholas Andre (Charles Rocket). None of this is yet known to our dense duo, but with little to hold them to Providence, Lloyd convinces Harry to drive them to the land of opportunity in Aspen, where he can return the briefcase to Mary and the two of them can start fresh. Needless to say, Joe and J.P. are in close pursuit.
Of course, the trip out west is not a simple affair. Hazards abound in the form of an ill-tempered hick named Sea Bass (Cam Neely), a police officer (Harland Williams) who discovers that those beer bottles in Harry's truck DON'T contain beer, and Lloyd falling asleep at the wheel (which does lead to a hilarious dream sequence!). The most danger comes in the form of Joe, who has decided that Harry and Lloyd can be safely eliminated. True to form, the dense duo escapes harm with a cunning combination of childish pranksterism, dumb luck, and a few atomic peppers. This draws the attention of the police, who also now are on their trail in the form of Detective Dale (Felton Perry, last seen as Johnson in Robocop).
At a brief late night gas stop, Lloyd narrowly escapes the Return of the ill-tempered Sea Bass and Harry is himself smitten with the charms of Beth Jordan (Victoria Rowell), who is herself moving to Aspen. After a navigational detour by way of Nebraska, they finally arrive in Aspen frozen and fatigued, but happy. Until, that is, Lloyd admits he can't remember who the girl was, or where she was going in Aspen. With nowhere to go, and no money for a motel room, our intrepid idiots fight with each other out of pure frustration. In the middle of their wrestling match, the briefcase is damaged, revealing its contents -- bundles upon bundles of cash!
Suddenly flush, Harry and Lloyd check into Aspen's finest digs and outfit themselves in style (to the tune of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman"), thoughtfully replacing the cash with IOUs. A little more dumb luck leads them to a gala environmental benefit that Mary Swanson is attending. Faced with his love once again, Lloyd gets an attack of the 'shys' and asks Harry to approach her in his place. Much to his surprise, Harry finds himself spending a full day of activity with Mary (and causing only some minor mishaps), thus leaving Lloyd alone and abandoned. Lloyd gets his revenge in vicious fashion, setting the stage for an exhibition of extreme potty humor starring Harry Dunne. Having thus incapacitated Harry, Lloyd meets with Mary alone and tells her he's brought the briefcase to Aspen. When they get back to the hotel, Mary gets a double shock when she finds a briefcase filled with IOUs and her family friend Nicholas Andre armed and with mayhem on his mind.
Harry stumbles into the middle of the confrontation, where Nicholas is homicidally peeved that his ransom-filled briefcase suddenly is money free. Just in the nick of time, the cops charge in and save the day, with a little help from "Dead-Eye" Harry. Their task in Aspen complete, our half-wit heroes return to the road, wandering off into the distance on a quest for their destiny. Fini.
The anamorphic video is quite excellent, as we have come to expect from New Line. I don't believe that I have yet seen a substandard transfer from a New Line film, and hope that they keep this winning streak going! The picture is crisp and clean, with well saturated colors and no shimmering or ringing from digital enhancement. Flesh tones seem just a tad off (but not to any distracting degree) and the picture is generally free of dirt or defects. There is some degree of video noise, but it is minor and only noticeable in a handful of scenes.
The audio is a good but not exceptional mix, as you might expect from a comedy. Dialogue is clearly understood and decent use is made of channel effects, with clear separation. A couple times I did find myself thinking how well placed some of the simple effects were (i.e. knocking on a door). Your subwoofer will provide some minor anchoring to the sound, but with no big gunfights or explosions, it will scarcely be heard. I must commend the score and soundtrack to your attention, as this movie has a catchy, eclectic mix of modern songs that got me dancing in my seat several times.
The only area where this disc comes up short is in the extras department, which is a bit of a surprise for a New Line DVD. I don't think this fault should be judged too harshly, as this was released over two years ago and since then New Line has put out discs with impressive extra content (i.e. Blade and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery). You get two properly formatted, good quality trailers: the original theatrical trailer and the international trailer (in 5.1 sound, no less!). Throw in some brief filmographies for the cast and a bland photo gallery, and that's it, all packaged in the collector-unfriendly snapper case.
Check your brain at the door and have a hilariously goofy evening. This is a must rental, and (for only $25) I highly recommend Dumb and Dumber for purchase as well!
As soon as the Court stops laughing, the film is speedily acquitted. New Line is granted entry into the Court's Diversion program, and will have its record sealed as long as they keep up their most excellent work packing their discs with extras.
Review content copyright © 1999 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Cast Bios
* Theatrical Trailer