Let’s dispense with the tension right away: Dumb & Dumber To is funny.
Not rolling-in-the-aisles funny, not we’re-gonna-be-quoting-this-for-years funny, but four or five laugh-out-louds (and double that in snorts) funny, which given what was at stake can be described as a small miracle. Quite frankly, I hadn’t felt so relieved leaving a cinema since I accidentally finished an extra large Fanta in the first ten minutes of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The reason is that at the wise age of nine, I – like many others – anointed the 1994 original Dumb & Dumber the funniest film ever made, and have been firmly of that opinion ever since. I cried watching it with my dad as a little boy, chuckled stoned at it as a teenager, bonded with my best friend over it at university and now – aged 30 – still know all the lines by heart and can’t resist staying up late whenever it’s on TV.
This isn’t the place to justify that unshakeable belief. You either “got” the Farrelly Brothers at their peak or you didn’t (admittedly, being nine years old helped), and Dumb & Dumber was the peak of their peak, not to mention the peak of Jim Carrey’s peak.
So naturally – given all movie history has to teach us about sequels – I walked to the screening with all the relish of someone off to tell their new in-laws they've broken their toilet. But only, thank God, to be swiftly proven wrong. Because the brilliant thing about Dumb & Dumber To is that it is made for people who adore the original, and everyone else – new viewers, critics – can go jump.
It takes 20 minutes or so for Carrey and Jeff Daniels (Lloyd and Harry respectively) to warm up, for the old gears to start grinding again. Their faces are a little more lined, naturally. Their movement a beat less fluid. But they soon hit their stride, resurrecting the vocal and physical mannerisms that made them one of the all-time best movie double acts, up there – I’m going to say it – with Wilder and Pryor in Stir Crazy, or Martin and Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
The plot of the original is more or less repeated. The boys embark on a road trip with a hidden menace (Rob Riggle’s Travis, replacing Mike Starr’s Big Joe in the original), leading to a series of set pieces that test their friendship, bring them close to triumph and ultimately leave them exactly where they started – empty-handed. Many – though by no means all – of the gags are echoes of the original too, something acknowledged in a glorious split screen montage at the end.
In normal circumstances – that is to say, in normal reviews, by critics who agree with the original Dumb & Dumber’s (criminal) 56 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating – this would be cause for criticism.
But for the rest of us stupid or happy enough to have loved Harry and Lloyd in the first place, the repetition is joyous, like seeing the training montage in a new Rocky movie. Like those films, a thread of knowing nostalgia runs through Dumb & Dumber To that makes you want to literally cheer out loud.
Midway through the action, Harry and Lloyd stumble over the Mutt Cutts dog van from the original – not seen since Lloyd traded it for a scooter in 1994. Naturally they steal it and zoom off, and for a second, you fear the film has veered too far down memory lane. Then the van goes over a hill, leaps in the air – with Harry and Lloyd looking ecstatic behind the windscreen – lands in a broken heap on the side of the road, and is never seen or mentioned again.
It's a scene that captures precisely what Dumb & Dumber To has set out – and succeeded – to do: invoke the spirit of the original without ransacking it, playing to the crowd but giving them enough surprises it doesn’t feel cheap.
It's brilliant, awful fun, and those claiming the Farrelly Brothers' gross out humour is too dated or unsophisticated for 2014 have clearly forgotten that comedy isn't always most enjoyable when it's on the cutting edge.
In the opening scene – featured in the trailers – we discover that for the past 20 years, Lloyd has been in a mental home, unable to move or speak, paralysed by grief over the loss of Mary Swanson, his love interest from the first film.
He’s fine, really. It’s all just been a long gag to wind Harry up. But that is precisely what the Farrelly Brothers have done – kept the characters right where they left them, completely unchanged or matured by age. In its best moments, Dumber & Dumber To makes you feel like something similar has happened to you.
Dumb & Dumber To is out 19 December.