As you may know, I am Franchise Fred because I believe there should always be more sequels to films, indefinitely. I stand by that. Now I’m in heaven with more and more sequels than I ever could have hoped for, so it’s time to apply a Franchise Fred analysis.
This weekend brings us the long-awaited Dumb and Dumber To, reuniting Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. We were at the film’s press junket to hear Carrey and Daniels, the Farrelly Brothers and producers talk about the sequel. Here’s how they addressed the Franchise Fred factor.
1. Immediate Sequels vs. Long-Awaited “Chiquels”
We waited 19 years for another Indiana Jones, 16 for another Rocky, 20 for another Rambo. Dumb and Dumber To is part of that elite group of long awaited sequels, and Jim Carrey won me over by inventing a word for it. “It’s cooler to wait,” he said. “A sequel, when you wait 20 years, becomes a chicquel. I think I just coined a huge phrase that’s going to change everything for everyone.”
2. Keeping the Cast Vs. Hiring Imposters
Conventional wisdom was that Carrey was the holdout on a Dumb and Dumber sequel. Then there was that prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Never forgot Dumb and Dumberer. Never forget. The producers of the two legit films revealed that they could have put this sequel together before New Line made that prequel.
“We did get Jim and Jeff,” Bradley Thomas said. “There was a small window where they wanted to do the sequel. Charlie [Wessler], myself, Pete and Bobby [Farrelly] went in to talk to Bob Shaye who’s a legend and great man, has made many, many, great movies. We told him, ‘We’ve got Jim and Jeff, let’s go do it.’ He was like, ‘Nah, I think we’ll make more money if we do a prequel. We won’t have to pay any of the actors.’ I remember us all giggling, like, ‘Okay.’”
Wessler added, “We did go in when we heard they were doing it and we heard what the story was, we all went in to talk to the president of New Line. They said it’s a prequel with 16-17-year-olds. [I said], ‘Look, all 17-year-olds are idiots so there’s nothing magical about what you’re doing there.’”
That was already 2003. The Farrellys said they didn’t want to do a sequel right away, and then only came around at Carrey’s prodding. Ultimately New Line/Warner Bros. had to put it into turnaround for the sequel to end up at Universal.
“We were never really close to doing a sequel,” Peter Farrelly said. “We didn’t want to do a sequel right after the first one because that was our first movie and we didn’t want to just be Dumb and Dumber guys. We wanted to go off and do other things and then a few years later there was talk of it. We didn’t ever want to do a sequel to anything else, but this one was a logical sequel because they hadn’t grown at all, and we left them right where we started with them, so why not do it again. We really didn’t go for the plot until five years ago when Jim called and said, ‘Let’s do a sequel to Dumb and Dumber.’ He had just seen it on TV, loved it. He said I want to do another one of these and then we started thinking what the story would be.”
3. Continuity Vs. A Fresh Perspective
My biggest concern with the 20 year wait for Dumb and Dumber To was that Carrey and Daniels might not remember who their characters were. It’s natural, people change over time so the longer you wait, the more different a perspective you come from. This can make some sequels interesting, but Harry and Lloyd are not supposed to change. Daniels and Carrey have achieved a lot in the 20 years that Harry and Lloyd have been waiting for them to return.
Carrey admitted his process was more present than historic. It’s a valid philosophy and he meant it positively. “I don’t remember yesterday,” Carrey joked. “I pretty much live in the moment. I’m right here.”
In fact, he couldn’t even confirm Farrelly’s story about the phone call five years ago. “I don’t remember any of that but here’s my answer,” Carrey said. “I don’t remember the genesis of this whole thing. It’s been a lot of years of listening to fans. The fans made it special because they were constantly reminding me. The audience that saw it when they were kids has grown ups and now there’s a new audience to have fun with. They want to see it again.”
Look, it’s fine if you don’t remember the particulars of the dealmaking. What matters is that he made the movie. It just means that it impacts continuity when you take a modern perspective on an old character.
“Lloyd is a part of me now,” Carrey said. “Some parts you have to really totally get into the politics of the character and everything. There’s a couple things with Lloyd. You whack the tooth out and you think really selfishly. Just go ‘mine mine mine’ in your mind, but also the love between the characters. Thats’ important. You can get away with anything as long as there’s real love between the characters. Like the Honeymooners. They were yelling at each other through the whole show but you knew that Ralph loved Alice so that’s the bottom line.”
The Farrellys’ intention, certainly, was to make sure nothing had changed. “We want Dumb and Dumber To to be pretty much exactly like the original,” Bobby Farrelly said. “I think with Harry and Lloyd, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, that we have kept them the same. I don’t think there’s much tonally different than the original.”
In the end credits, you can see scenes from the original juxtaposed with new scenes and judge for yourself how much Harry and Lloyd have changed. “That was something we wanted to do, show them then and now because there’s such a fondness for the old movie, and also just to see how similar they are now, running around doing the same stuff,” Peter Farrelly said. “It’s a funny thing. When we did our last test screening, we really hadn’t changed that much but we added the end credits and the scores went through the roof, particularly for women. Women went up 25 points because they could see the boys that were up there and there was a love for those characters, seeing them at the end. I’m glad we did it.”
Chemistry vs. Complacency
Comedy sequels are often criticized for losing the magic of the original movie. Funny enough, I’ve often heard the stars of comedy sequels say that their chemistry was better on the sequel, because they knew each other and were more comfortable. Will Smith said it about Men in Black 2, the cast of Anchorman said it and I’m sure the Ghostbusters must have said it back in 1989 too, and I love Ghostbusters 2.
“It was better,” Daniels said of his chemistry with Carrey. “[On the first film,] you’re hoping it works and then from day one on this one, it was right there. Every day was fun. The first two weeks was just the two of us. We were slamming every day all day and it was a great two weeks, it really was. And it came back right away.”
The actors feel more compatible, but something special happened when they didn’t know each other. Does familiarity change the chemistry? “The first one was a discovery,” Carrey said. “You’re meeting a new friend and you’re kind of shy about it. Now it’s like family. [In the scene where] we’re coming off the bus together, we saw the playback and it was like aw, they’re back, man. It just gave us a good feeling. Like old friends.”
Carrey did recall a phone call to the Farrellys just to get the gang back together, whether for a sequel or something else. “I did call them at some point and say, ‘First of all, we’ve got to work together period,’” Carrey said. “That group of guys, as you get older your value these things. I want to be with the gang again. I want to hang out with him, I want to hang out with the Farrellys. It’s just really about that. Let’s go have some fun. Let’s go do something dumb.”
5. 20 Years = Exponential Growth
Sequels can often suffer from diminishing returns as the audience grows tired of them, although that hasn’t hurt the Fast and the Furious movies. One benefit of waiting 20 years is that the film’s fan base grows exponentially, and it’s not just one fan tells two friends, and then they tell two friends, and so on.
“The magical thing about the first one is it has such a cult following,” producer Riza Aziz said. “I think it makes it really special because now a lot of people who saw it 20 years ago are now bringing their kids to see it. Personally, I think the 20 years works for us, not against us.”
Wessler elaborated with some math. “When we made the first one 20 years ago, people went to see it. I think we can agree, when we made it we thought it was going to be for kids who were 12-25. It turned out a lot of people liked it. The great thing is every five years, kids who are 10, their parents let them see it. Then five years later, kids who were eight are not old enough for their parents to let them see it. We have a little group of generations who are now excited about seeing something that is fresh to them.”
It also helps if the first movie was such a big hit that people are still quoting it today. “There are so many memorable quotes and moments in the first one that have invaded pop culture and never died,” producer Joey McFarland said. “People are constantly quoting the movie and I don’t even think they consciously realize it’s Dumb and Dumber. There are so many catch phrases. Kobe Bryant’s tweeting a quote from Dumb and Dumber. That’s a sign. This is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.”
Always Keep the Locals Happy
An odd site in both Dumb and Dumber films is a prominently featured insect statue on the Big Blue Bug building beside the highway. The Farrellys explained how that ended up in the first film, and why we see it again in Dumb and Dumber to .
“The Big Blue Bug is a famous landmark in Providence, RI,” Peter Farrelly explained. “It’s an extermination company right off Rt. 95 and everybody who comes into Providence, that’s the first thing you see is a big bug. It’s kind of embarrassing that that’s the big ‘Hi, you’re in Rhode Island. Here’s a termite.’ So in the first movie, when they left town we had shown it and I could not believe how many Rhode Islanders came up thrilled that we had done it. So when they left in this one, we thought we’d show it again. Just for Rhode Islanders. Plus they gave us a hat, so we had to.”
So that one is just for locals. “It’s a termite but everybody thinks it’s a cockroach,” Bobby Farrelly said. “It makes a lot more sense to people in Rhode Island than anywhere.”
7. When Nature Calls and D&D To Vs. Lemony Snicket 2
So far, the only times Jim Carrey has played the same movie character twice have been Ace Ventura and Lloyd Christmas. They made a Bruce Almighty sequel without him and Batman Forever and Kick-Ass 2 were sequels to movies Carrey wasn’t in. Carrey admits he used to be opposed to sequels, but now would consider more. Once again, this comes down to how he feels in the moment.
“I don’t concentrate on sequels,” Carrey said. “I don’t think about doing those things. I’m not as resistant as I used to be to them and there are certain characters I would love to have done sequels with. I would love to have done a Lemony Snicket sequel because it was an opportunity to do a lot of whacked out characters, but I don’t have hard, fast rules. If it sounds fun in the moment, I’ll go there.”