Universal steps in to make ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ with Carrey, Daniels and the Farrellys

One of the things that has always impressed me about Pete and Bob Farrelly is how no matter how big their films got or how much hype there was around them at a given moment, they still seemed to be two guys running a small family business, surrounded by friends and unconcerned with much beyond their personal work.

When you look at the credits for their films, you see a lot of the same names each time, and that’s because they really do create a sense of community with their casts and crews. They take care of the people who help them make their films, and I have always gotten a sense of enormous loyalty from the people around them. When the guys say they want to do something, they stick with it, too. “The Three Stooges” is a movie they wanted to make for at least a decade, and the gradual process of chipping away until they figured out how to do it was all part of what they eventually made. “The Heartbreak Kid” was a pet project for years, a film that had inspired them profoundly that they really wanted to put a personal stamp on. Whatever you think of those films, they were things that mattered to the guys, things they fought for over time.

“Dumb and Dumber To,” as they’re currently calling it, is another project that’s been simmering for a while now. I think there must have been a point where it seemed unlikely they would ever return to Lloyd and Harry because of the prequel that was made at New Line. Once someone else has done something with your original property, I wonder if it’s hard to muster the same enthusiasm for it. The first “Dumb and Dumber” was the moment they broke through in a larger sense, where they defined what a Farrelly Brothers movie was for the first time, and it was part of Jim Carrey’s first supernova burst of fame as well.

The idea of seeing Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey playing those same characters now, almost two decades later, is intriguing precisely because of how hard it is to get a comedy sequel right. Even the most successful comedy sequels have trouble ever escaping the shadow of the first film, and because so much of what makes comedy special is the unexpected, by definition, sequels almost seem to be working against the comedy from the very start. I’m curious to see how you address the 20 years between the two films. How are Harry and Lloyd still functioning? Shouldn’t natural selection have thinned them from the herd by this point? How long can a monumentally stupid person stay monumentally stupid without it somehow becoming sad?

In real life, the guys who made The Three Stooges did it way past what should have been their expiration date, and there are some late-era Stooges films where it is downright creepy. It’s like watching the Little Rascals movies where Spanky and Alfalfa appear to be in their early 30s, still wearing the same outfits. Can the sequel find a way to make Harry and Lloyd still funny and still just as oblivious? I think the Farrellys are well aware of the creative challenges that confront anyone making a sequel to something that was well-liked and that is well-remembered. They aren’t just struggling to make a good movie. They’re also fighting against people’s memories of the original, competing with that remembered experience. I have to admit.. I’m intrigued by the idea of Jeff Daniels doing this between seasons of “The Newsroom.” I just hope he doesn’t get whiplash in the process.

When the film went into turnaround recently, it seemed unlikely we would ever see the sequel happen, but Universal saw that moment as an opportunity. The first drafts of this project were by Sean Anders and John Morris, who also wrote “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Sex Drive” and “We’re The Millers.” I think it’s an interesting match in terms of comic sensibility. I can see how the Farrellys must have been an influence on Anders and Morris, and with Pete and Bob doing the polish on the script, I’m betting it feels like a real Farrelly Bros. film, which is what I want if you’re bringing these characters back.

It sounds like everything’s ready to go and will happen quickly, especially because both Carrey and Daniels have complicated schedules that could easily make it impossible to get the film done. I look forward to seeing what they come up with, and I am rooting for them to get it right.