Dumb and Dumber To opens tomorrow, just 15 years past when it would’ve been a really good idea, and as part of my mission to get death threats, dismissals of my entire body of work, and lose all credibility, I thought I would rank the films of the Farrelly Brothers. Like any good internet writer, putting numbers next to stuff you remember is job #1. Hoorah, cat gifs and listicles for everyone!
QUALIFICATION PARAGRAPH: The difficulty of ranking the Farrelly Brothers is twofold, in that they make comedy films, and they did most of their best work almost 20 years ago, while many of us were in our most vulnerable, comedy-susceptible teen years. I’m not one of those people who will tell you that comedy is entirely subjective (duh, so is drama, stop your hemming and hawing so we can argue intangibles), but even more so than drama or horror or sci-fi, comedy is very much of the moment. That’s why people talk about comedic timing – that’s how important context is. It’s hard to judge how funny something really is that you thought was hilarious when you were 13. Not only because you may have had terrible taste when you were 13, but also because all that context that made it funny is missing now. A joke is rarely as funny as the first time you heard it, and the Farrelly Brothers were so successful that they had their style ripped off over and over. So, if a joke of theirs isn’t as funny as it once seemed, that may not mean it was never funny. The nature of comedy, and especially Farrelly Brothers-style comedy, is that you kinda had to be there.
Therefore, I give you…
You Kinda Had To Be There: The Definitive Ranking Of Farrelly Brothers Movies
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
It’s impossible to separate how good this movie actually is from my encyclopedic knowledge of it. I not only know half the quotes by heart, I can remember where I was when certain friends dropped certain quotes at certain times (those times? high school, mostly). One of my friends, a tall, lanky guy with a goofy face, so completely assumed Jim Carrey’s entire persona in the nineties that I can’t see any old Jim Carrey bits without seeing my friend. But in a way, that kind of makes it the seminal Farrelly Brothers movie. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure certain scenes are pretty terrible (Harland Williams as the pee-drinking cop, for instance), but I will go to my grave defending others, like Jim Carrey’s fantasy sequence where he’s a big hit at Mary Swanson’s party, her family rolling on the floor as he lights his farts. That scene is magic.
Key Quote: “Harry! Your hands are freezing!”
Anachronistic Curio: A guy getting punched through a phone booth. (Side note: That guy getting punched was Fred Stoller, whose book is a must-read – okay, technically I listened – for anyone who wants to get nostalgic about the bygone world of 90s pop culture).
Outside Providence (1999)
I know this is going to be my most controversial pick. For one thing, the Farrellys didn’t even direct it (Michael Corrente did), and for another, it’s not Kingpin (I know that’s everyones’ one or two pick, it might’ve even been mine at one time or another). But the Farrellys wrote Outside Providence, it’s based on Peter Farrelly’s novel, and I swear I’m not trolling. Out of all the Farrelly’s movies, this one seems the most genuine. It still has their broad (some might say overly broad) sense of humor, like a protagonist named “Dildo Dunphy” and a wheelchair-bound brother who was paralyzed, we learn, when the family was playing touch football and he “fell off the roof.” But it’s also a mostly earnest coming-of-age tale, and is the only Farrelly Brothers movie with moments that are genuinely touching. Alec Baldwin holds the whole thing together, and as hokey as it gets, there are so many gems in the dialog. Like Baldwin telling Shawn Hatosy “Makin’ sex is like Chinese dinner – it ain’t over until you both get your cookies. …Remember I said that.” And Hatosy thinking about whether his dead friend Drugs Delaney is in Heaven or hell: “Maybe he’ll get lucky, and after you die there’s just nothing.”
I think I rank Outside Providence higher than most people (it rated a pretty dismal 50% on Rotten Tomatoes) because it has the highest wordplay-to-hijinks ratio of any of the Farrelly movies. Also, Amy Smart was hot like lava in 1999.
Key Quote: “It’s a prep school. It’s to prepare you. For not gettin’ your neck broke, by me.”
Anachronistic Curio: The scene where the poker bros kick out George Wendt for being gay, then, without an apology or a making up of any sort, he just shows up at the next poker game and they’re all friends again and accept him for who he is. I feel like this was kind of progressive in 1999. In 2014 it’s just very strange.
I’d probably remember Kingpin as the best Farrelly movie if I’d never rewatched it again on cable. It has arguably the best cast, with Bill Murray in one of his all-time greatest costumes, with possibly their best plot device (bowling). But give it a rewatch some time. Outside of the Murray stuff, a lot of it was pretty shithouse. Of all the Farrelly’s recycled gags/memes, having Lin Shaye as some kind of gross crone is one of my least favorite. Get it?? She’s ugly, lol! It never bothered me at the time (ie, when I was a teenager), but honestly she’s the kind of character you’d see in a B-grade Mexican sitcom. And then there was Vanessa Angel, who made a good foil, and was the basis for the great Bill Murray line “It’s a small world when you’ve got unbelievable tits, Roy,” but couldn’t quite figure out what accent to do.
Key Quote: “What is it about good sex that always makes me have to crap?”
Anachronistic Curio: Randy Quaid being a comedic star and not an insane person.
Me, Myself, And Irene (2000)
Irene came directly after There’s Something About Mary (depending on whether you count Outside Providence) and suffers from the comparison, both critically and commercially – $149 million to $369 million; 48% recommended to 83%. But Me, Myself and Irene is possibly the only Farrelly Brothers movie that I like better now than when it came out. Sure, it was totally dumb and broad, and the Jim-Carrey-is-a-dick-who-says-everything-that’s-on-his-mind shtick was already done better in Liar Liar, but whereas Something About Mary was almost entirely mean-spirited, there’s a strange sweetness to Me, Myself, and Irene. Vaguely racist sweetness, perhaps, but sweetness nonetheless. Also, I’ll never forget that shot of a dog taking a huge dump dissolving to a guy eating soft-serve ice cream. It’s the only movie on this list that I kind of want to rewatch.
Key Quote: “Omnipresence. I like that in a woman.”
Anachronistic Curio: Jerod Mixon before he hit the big time:
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Like everyone else, I remember liking this when it came out. But as far as stuff that was popular in the late 90s goes, it holds up about as well as Limp Bizkit and Jnco pants. I caught it on cable a few nights ago and I have to wonder what the hell we were all thinking. The jokes are “Haha, her neighbor’s ugly and weird.” “Haha, her brother is retarded.” “Haha, a disabled guy.” “Haha, he killed a dog.” Not necessarily in that order. The scene where Ben Stiller gets his dick stuck in his zipper feels like it goes on for two or three hours, and those guitar guys are almost as obnoxious as Geico’s guitar guys. It also forever cursed us with the idea that every transition scene in a comedy needs a jaunty pop song to go with it and that Cameron Diaz can do comedy.
On the other hand, it had Chris Elliott, and God dammit I love Chris Elliot. We must’ve seen something in this movie. Were we just blinded by a constantly-cold Cameron Diaz never wearing a bra?
Key Quote: “I work with retards.”
Anachronistic Curio: Brett Favre. The entire plot and soundtrack.
Hall Pass (2011)
This was a tough ranking to fill, mostly because they’re all pretty terrible after this one. I guess Hall Pass started off okay, with some sitcommy, women-be-shoppin’ married jokes that weren’t the worst thing in the world. And it had Stephen Merchant, Richard Jenkins, and Jason Sudeikis, who are all pretty great. But I refuse to believe that an unhappily-married man whose wife has given him carte blanche to have sex with another woman would turn down both Alexandra Daddario and Nicky Whelan, one when topless and begging for no-strings-attached sex. It’s quite possibly the worst example of the mainstream comedy where the man won’t cheat even under the most preposterously tempting circumstances, that he created in the first place (see also: Vince Vaughn in Old School). It feels like a screenwriter who was secretly cheating on his wife wrote it while his wife was looking over her shoulder. And then at the end it’s revealed that Owen Wilson’s character lost his virginity to his wife and didn’t want to cheapen that by having sex with any hot 20-something models. Jesus Christ, who wrote this, the Duggars?
Key Quote: “Last night I fake chowed a DJ’s mom.”
Anachronistic Curio: Someone being too embarrassed to say the word “porn.” Though I’m not sure you could call it anachronistic since it came out three years ago. Maybe just “bad.”
Shallow Hal (2001)
Basically two hours of fat jokes disguised as a lesson on not being shallow, plus Gwyneth Paltrow. History has not been kind.
Key Quote: Something about Tony Robbins having banana fingers?
Anachronistic Curio: Calling women dogs and rhinos. And that was in the trailer.
The Three Stooges (2012)
Look, I’ll say it, a few of the gags in here weren’t half bad. And the actors, especially Will Sasso, are all talented. God I wish Will Sasso would catch a decent project. Of course, no matter how well they execute any given gag, you just kind of feel bad for everyone in this since it was such a horrible idea to begin with. It’s worse than trying to remake Dumb and Dumber without the Farrellys, Jim Carrey, or Jeff Daniels.
Key Quote: Kate Upton in a nun-kini.
Anachronistic Curio: It’s two years old.
Osmosis Jones (2001)
I don’t remember a single thing about this movie. Is it even real? Still, it has to be better than Fever Pitch.
Key Quote: “Here we go again!” (note: I made this up)
Anachronistic Curio: 2D animation.
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
Ben Stiller decided he didn’t love Malin Akerman and that he actually loved Michelle Monaghan. Popular songs were played. Carlos Mencia was there.
Key Quote: “I just queefed, BIG TIME.”
Anachronistic Curio: Carlos Mencia
Stuck On You (2003)
You might think the idea of a couple of Joe Six Pack Siamese twins is barely enough to carry a sketch, let alone a movie, and you’d be right.
Key Quote: “Hey, you guys are stuck together!” (it was in the trailer)
Fever Pitch (2005)
I’ve never seen more than five minutes of this movie and I don’t plan to. I’ve made some sacrifices for you readers over the years, including sitting through a faith-based Ja Rule movie executive produced by God, but a rom-com starring human nutrasweet dispensers Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore about the Red Sox is above my pay grade. The funniest thing about this movie (only funny thing, I imagine) is that they cast a famous Yankee fan to run around Fenway in Sawx geah thereby alienating an entire region of the country. Making Sox and Yankee fans fight each other is one of my favorite things ever, and yet, still not enough to keep this from the bottom spot.
Key Quote: “DEE DA DEE!” (I assume Carlos Mencia is also in this)