The year was 1994. While Serbia continued to bomb its own citizens in the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, two starry-eyed brothers who at one time wrote on Seinfeld made their directorial debut. Lloyd Christmas is dumb. His best friend and roommate Harry Dunne is also dumb, but slightly less so. Both struggle to survive in society. They go on a road trip to return a woman’s suitcase and find adventure/capers. Dumb and Dumber would gross $247 million at the box office and go on to inform the international comedic sensibilities. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it: this was the mentality as the Providence, Rhode Island brothers’ road trip comedy was the film that launched three other road trip comedy films, two of which also began in Providence. Kingpin (1996), There’s Something About Mary (1998), and Me, Myself & Irene (2000) followed the Dumb and Dumber model to varying degrees of success. The fact that the comedy bros Peter and Bobby Farrelly could sell such similar movies to major Hollywood studios four times is a testament to their landmark film. It’s one of our favorites and below we have compiled its superlative moments.
Restaurant Kung-Fu Fight
Nine years before Quentin Tarantino brought his audiences to guilty and morally questionable tears with his dark comedy Kill Bill (2003), Carrey managed to put his two-part saga into a nutshell. In one scene, we get martial arts, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and that fish-gill dance move. The scene begins when an overly French waiter starts licking love interest Mary’s arm. With awesome fake arm breaking, repeated blows to the groin, and perfect sound effects, Lloyd takes down three restaurant henchmen in total. Doesn’t every guy wish he could do something like that in front of the woman he loves?
Most Annoying Sound in the World
Mike Starr (Goodfellas, helloo) is Joe “Mental” Mentalino. He and J.P. Shay (Karen Duffy) kidnapped Bobby, husband of Mary Swanson. All he wants is to get his suitcase full of ransom money back. He was not hoping for an a capella version of Inez and Charlie Fox’s "Mockingbird." With him in the car, the scene immediately turns into a family road trip with rambunctious kids—except they’re not in the back, they’re driving the car.
Austrian or Australian
Jim Carrey made his career with his impressions. In his stand up on the TV sketch comedy show In Living Color and in his various late night spots, Carrey gave us Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, and Wile E. Coyote, among others. With audiences expecting this, Jim Carrey kills with an absurdly boilerplate Australian. Genius. When a limo rolls up in a noire film, the shadowy guy inside looks out at seemingly level height. Somehow, with Carrey’s craned neck, this scene is way funnier. I also have a feeling that the whole "head-out-the window" proved the inception for "Ace-Ventura-escapes-a-mechanical-rhino-out-of-its-butt," a scene that plays out in the 1995 Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
Salt for Luck
Jim Carrey knows what luck is. After growing up in a struggling family of six, he worked as an actor and comic in Los Angeles for nearly 10 years before he got a break. In 1990, still in financial straights, he wrote himself a check for $10 million for "acting services rendered," postdated five years. After the success of Ace Ventura, Carrey was offered $7 million for his role in Dumb and Dumber. With further success in The Mask and the Ace Ventura sequel, Carrey was able to cash that check. In the film, Lloyd and Harry end up rich for a time… does hard work pay off? Do we all live our lives at the whim of Providence?
Piss in the Beer Bottle
Remember Harland Williams? Seen Half-Baked lately? There’s nothing funnier than the moment bodily fluid goes somewhere it shouldn’t. Scatological humor must be the most topical form of comedy. But why is it also considered the lowest? Roger Ebert gave this movie two out of four stars. In reference to this scene he writes: “The cop gets a bad surprise when he tests what he thinks is an open bottle of beer, but that gag misfires because its final shot is just plain not funny.” Well, he’s been dead long enough: poo poo on you Roger Ebert, poo poo on you.
Super Sloppy CPR
If this movie is an epic, then this scene represents a trip to the underworld. Set in a restaurant named Dante’s Inferno—a niche roadhouse inspired by spicy food—Mental plans to put rat poison in the gang’s drinks. A burger spiked with spicy peppers incapacitates Mental on the floor, with him cursing the ulcer he developed when he realized he was a one trick pony and would be playing a tough guy from Queens for the rest of his acting career. Harry, with a classic example of the rat poison/ulcer medicine mix up, kills his would-be murder. Go Harry.
Trading the Van for the Bike
"Traded the van for it, straight up. I can get 70 miles per gallon on this hog." Jeff Daniels has significantly fewer lines in the movie than his counterpart. New Line Cinema, in fact, didn’t think that Daniels—an actor with mostly dramatic roles on his resume—was right for the part. They offered him only $50,000 for the part, thinking that he would turn it down. He didn’t, he killed it, and he got to say the title of the movie, kind of. The Brothers Farrelly would later cast Daniels as the lead in their subsequent road trip movie Kingpin.
High Society Hannibal Lecters
“No man willingly wears a dirty shirt,” writes Colin Bower of the New English Review. “Yet, at some stage between early morning, when a man dons a clean shirt, and late evening, when he removes a dirty shirt, and tosses it contemptuously into the laundry basket, he is knowingly wearing a dirty shirt.” I don’t know what you mean, Bower, but I’m fairly certain Carrey is parodying the classic line uttered by Duckie (John Cryer) in Pretty in Pink (1986): “I’m off like a dirty shirt.” Get it? "Off" is the opposite of "in." Wait, what? Ok, the Farrelly bros are not Ethan and Joel Coen, but damn, this scene has intertextual depth. The Pretty in Pink reference is followed a few lines later, with the final lines of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) or something close to it at least. Bravo.
Jeff Daniels is an actor. For real. Emmy Award winning; Golden Globe, SAG, and Tony Award nominated; the man operates The Purple Rose Theater Company, (offering lessons/performances) and is super down to earth. He married his high school sweetheart and they live in Michigan. His credentials make this scene positively juicy. The old tongue stuck on the pole in winter never gets old. Daniels was born with a rare genetic mutation known as de novoplasia oregoseme. Those afflicted have an abundance of elastin—a stretchy type of human tissue—in the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders. He is able to stretch his tongue to nearly twice its regular length. Several other Hollywood actors carry this mutation, notably Sylvester Stallone and Linda Blair, who played Regan MacNeil, the little girl in The Exorcist (1973).
At the Swanson family gala, Harry attempts to wingman Lloyd with Mary but agrees to spend the next day skiing with her instead. A jilted Lloyd spikes Harry’s coffee with laxatives to sabotage his après ski date. (What is it with spiking drinks/hamburgers in this movie?) Every man fears pooping in the proximity of a woman. Some are crippled by it. Our favorite Dumb and Dumber scene acts as a kind of exposure therapy: through it, we can approach the issue, feel the heat of those flames of shame, package it in our frontal lobes, laugh at it, and make it disappear. This movie brings us to a happy place, a pre-NAFTA nest of security, a cinematic climate that had yet to see Jim Carey in The Number 23 (2007). Where have you gone Jim Carrie Who Talks Out Of His Butt? The world needs you. We’ll trade you for the Vaccination Conspiracy Believing Jim Carrie. Mr. Daniels … you’re great. The Newsroom was fun while it lasted, kind of.