Since exploding onto the big-screen in 1994 with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber, Jim Carrey has been in a fierce battle against his own image. Much like the late Peter Sellers, Carrey is a brilliant comic actor who seems almost slightly ashamed of his craft. As a result, he has attempted to branch out into more dramatic, artsy fare in recent years, with middling results. Because of this, the announcement that Carrey had signed on for Dumb & Dumber 2 (only his second sequel) came as a pleasant surprise. Will the film mark the beginning of a comedic rebirth for Carrey?
While there are no sure bets as to where Dumb & Dumber 2 will lead Jim Carrey, you can easily think up some possible scenarios based on his past career choices. On one hand, the film could be just a gem, a film that helps remind audiences why they fell in love with Carrey and his brand of outrageous, physical comedy. It could also be a desperate money grab by filmmakers and Carrey, hoping to use one of their big hits as a chance to milk a nostalgic audience. This is Carrey’s chance to reengage with the audience in a way he didn’t with Yes Man, which could re-open doors.
If it works, Carrey could use the success of Dumb & Dumber 2 as leverage to seek out projects which will satisfy him artistically. This is something he has done numerous times, like going from Liar Liar to The Truman Show, Bruce Almighty to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Yes Man to I Love You Phillip Morris.
Though this tactic has built a diverse resume, it has hurt Carrey’s bankability and led him to develop something of an identity crisis on screen. And when Carrey went for Oscars (Man in the Moon, The Majestic) neither audiences or the academy responded. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with actors wanting to expand their range, they must also retain some of their unique character traits. To his credit, Jim Carrey has managed to skate that fine line in films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, for everyone of those there is The Number 23.
Perhaps the best result from Dumb & Dumber 2 would be if it ignited a comedic fire within Carrey, which we haven’t seen in years. In his prime, Jim Carrey was a once-in-a-generation talent capable of crafting outrageous, manic characters which were as grotesque and crude as they were endearing. Unlike some of today’s comedic actors, who can be simply insufferable without decent material (i.e. Will Ferrell), Carrey could generate huge laughs simply through his wonderfully expressive face and body language. Carrey has always had some difficulty embracing that identity, hence his ventures into more dramatic fare.
Perhaps with Dumb & Dumber 2, Jim Carrey will rediscover that passion for comedy which led to his meteoric rise some two decades ago. It may also help him come to terms with who he is both as a performer and a personality. At least, that’s what we hope happens.
Do you think Dumb & Dumber 2 will mark the beginning of a comedic rebirth for Jim Carrey?