'Dumb and Dumber To'

Were Lloyd and Harry always this mean? A bad sequel is one thing, but one which causes you to reconsider the beloved original, well, that might represent a true cinematic crime. Dumb and Dumber To, I am sad to report, appears to be just such a crime. It is not any worse than, say, the Anchorman sequel save for one way -- the worst kind of way -- the one that leads to a series of existential questions about your fandom of the original.

To brings Lloyd and Harry in to the present day and puts them back in their hometown, Providence, R.I., where Lloyd (Jim Carrey) has been in a catatonic state for the better part of two decades. Since the trailer for the film spilled just as much, I'm spoiling nothing when I mention that Lloyd's near-vegetative state is an elaborate prank played on Harry (Jeff Daniels).

The gag might have been funnier had it not been spoiled by the film's promotional materials, but that's a subject for another day, and it obfuscates the first hint of a systemic problem with this sequel that seems nigh endemic in the comedy genre, but which took me off guard in finding it here.

Lloyd's joke on his dearest friend is cruel. Yes, it is a relative of the classic "Billy in 4C" joke, but it has a much harder, much less amusing edge. Lloyd sold Harry's dead bird to a blind kid for some walking-around money on their cross-country trip. He played this trick ... why?

Dumb and Dumber To is full of moments like this — ones that aren’t particularly funny and make its protagonists’ motivations unclear at best, or downright sinister at worst. When it isn’t radically altering your initial assessment of Lloyd and Harry — two lovable idiots who all of a sudden don’t seem so lovable — it is putting you through the paces of a typically unimaginative comedy sequel. It is making too much of an ancillary character — Fraida Felcher — and putting Lloyd and Harry back in a familiar position, on a road trip, in the most awkward possible manner.

This is the worst of many worlds when it comes to comedy and sequels. Rather than attempting to bring some new energy and ideas to the dimwits at the heart of this story, Bobby and Peter Farrelly send them on a nostalgia trip, paying tribute and/or attempting to top the best moments of the first film. It’s one big reminder of the first film’s superiority, and it’s served up by a Lloyd and Harry that have gone from obtuse to deliberately vicious in the intervening decades, another trend in comedies that is both mystifying and repulsive.

In the end, Dumb and Dumber To does not diminish the greatness of the original. Soon enough, this will crawl in to a dark corner of my memory, only to be jogged when I come across it on basic cable, hopefully some day well in to the future.