Peter Farrelly on Dumb and Dumber To, Being an Auteur, and Staying PG-13

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In 1994, the Farrelly brothers Peter and Bobby came out of nowhere with Dumb and Dumber. Over the next 20 years, they made a name for themselves as champions of lowbrow comedy with movies like Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, and Hall Pass. Now the brothers are going back to the well with Dumb and Dumber To. Vulture spoke with older brother Peter about the movie, making PG-13 movies, the possibility of a Kingpin sequel, and if he and his brother consider themselves auteurs.

Why make this sequel now?
The stars aligned. We didn’t want to do a sequel right after the first one because we didn’t want to become just the Dumb and Dumber guys, but about five years after the first one came out, we started thinking. It was around the time that they said, "Hey, let’s do a sequel for Something About Mary." We thought, Meh, that doesn’t make sense. Mary had an ending. But if we were gonna do a sequel, how about Dumb and Dumber? So we called Jim, but at the time he was busy. And then we just forgot about it. Then about five years ago, Jim called me out of the blue. He had been in a hotel, and he turned on the TV, and Dumb and Dumber was just starting. He sat there and watched it and he called me immediately after and said, “Let’s do another. I loved it. It’s so funny.” More than that, he said, “I loved how much those guys love each other. I want to do that again.” That got the ball rolling. 

As a sequel, what did you feel needed to be in this movie?
The whole thing about Harry and Lloyd is they don’t change. From the beginning to the end of the first one, they had gone through an experience, but they came out of it [on] the other side exactly the same. They don’t learn, they don’t change, they don’t evolve, they don’t grow. So the big question was, well, this is 20 years later — and we wanted to point that out, we didn’t want to act like it wasn’t 20 years later — so what would have happened to them over the years? They wouldn’t have grown, but how would that have been, that they didn’t grow? 

It’s funny, the way you describe it, it’s like Dumb and Dumber is the antihero’s journey. They go on a journey and then they return to the exact same spot, exactly the same.
Exact same place. They don’t change. Ultimately, it’s a love story. Not a romantic love story, but it’s about these guys' love for each other. They have nobody else. They screw each other over left and right. They’re weak. They’ll do anything to get ahead personally, but ultimately, at the end of the day, they are left with each other, and that’s the beauty of it. 

Comedy changes over time. Did you make any kind of concessions to update the tone?
People say humor changes, and that’s true. Humor evolves, but Harry and Lloyd don’t evolve. You can’t have them all of a sudden have a different sense of humor, where they’re, like, wry. So we knew the ground rules, and then it was just a matter of finding the jokes that were gonna be equal to the first one. The bar has been raised over the years because it never went away, really. People continued to watch the movie over and over and over and liked it more and more and more. We just didn’t want to do a disappointing movie. 

This movie, like the last one, is rated PG-13. PG-13 comedies aren't really en vogue right now. There are a lot of R-rated comedies. What are the benefits of the lower rating?
Well, the main benefit is we wanted kids to be able to see it, because this is for 10-, 12-, 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds, definitely. We didn’t want to lock them out. And anyway, these guys don’t swear. They don’t use bad language. They don’t drink. They don’t do drugs. They’re juvenile. Fart and crap jokes are specially made for kids, so it would have been a mistake to go R on it. They’re not R guys.

I was reading some of the early reviews of the first one, and some people called the movie dumb. Do you hear about that and think like, “Yeah, exactly, that's the point!"?
Oh, yeah. One of the weirdest things was when it came out, because it did well, there were all these articles about the “dumbing” of America. I thought that was the most inane thing ever. That would be like saying this is the “Batman-ing” of America, because Batman’s No. 1, or the “Star Wars–ing” of America — like, what the hell are you talking about? Because one movie called Dumb and Dumber is successful? But also, there was one time when Bobby was watching one of those morning political talk shows, like CBS This Morning or something, and it was Sam Donaldson and a couple other people, and they were discussing the dumbing of America. And Bobby was curious to see what they said. He quickly realized that none of them had watched the movie. That's the dumbing of America, right there. 

Someone once asked us, "Does it bother you that dumb people might be offended by this?" Are you kidding!? Who identifies themself as a dumb person? Like, Hey, I don't like that. I'm a dumb person. That's offensive to me! Also, dumb people don't know they're dumb, so they wouldn't know. 

Who is dumber?
Whoever answers last, whoever speaks last. And it varies. Like, you see a scene where Lloyd says, "Let's make a bet," and Harry says, "I don't bet," and Lloyd says, "I bet I can get you to bet." And he says, "No, I don't bet." He goes, "2:1 odds." "Nope." He goes," 5:1 odds." "Nope." "I'll give you 10:1 odds I don't bet." And he goes, "All right, you're on!" And you think Harry's the dumb one, but then, just hold on a second, and Lloyd says, "I'm gonna getcha. I don't know how, but I'm gonna getcha." That's the beauty of it. Whoever speaks last is generally the dumbest. 

Do you think of them as differently dumb?
I think of them as completely different. There's a Harry line and a Lloyd line. Harry seems to have a little more smarts than Lloyd in many ways; like he can read, for instance, and Lloyd can't. And he has more common sense. But the weird thing is that he follows Lloyd. Lloyd's the leader of the group. Harry's the guy who responds to what Lloyd does, which is odd. Like I always think of the scene where they pick up the hitchhiker in the first one — they pick up Joe Mental. They pull over and Lloyd's saying, "We don't normally pick up hitchhikers," and behind him, you see Harry kind of glaring at Joe Mental, and then Lloyd says, "Buuuuuuuut, I got a good feeling about this one." Right away, Harry just bursts into a big smile. He just follows. Whatever Lloyd wants to do, he does it, even though he's probably a little brighter. He's a follower. Harry's a follower, that's just the way it is. 

[Spoiler for a specific joke in the movie] That scene where Harry and Lloyd learn that they've never had sex before is one of the funniest thing I've seen in years.
Thank you! Another writer said to me, "How am I supposed to believe that they didn't even know what sex was?" Well, these are guys who think that their bird's head fell off naturally. It could easily happen. They thought just playin' with tits was sex. They don't know, no one ever explained it to them. They're both idiots. They're children! I remember when we were writing it, we thought, Oh my God! That's perfect! The other one we thought of late in the process was at the end of the movie, we thought, Hey, what if Harry was faking about the kidney? And then when we wrote that, we were like, Oh, this is perfect! Because when we wrote the first "Gotcha!," we weren't thinking about the second till we got there. I thought, Hey, let's go for it! 

There's something unmistakable about your movies. Do you think of yourselves, in your way, as auteurs?
I mean, only in the sense that we have done it, but I never thought of it as, Someday I'm going to create a body of work. And I don't have a body of work, like, in my mind. There's no plan like I'd like to do this kind of thing, then that kind of thing, then this kind of thing. But, I mean, the fact of the matter is we do write and direct our own movies. So I guess you could look at it that way, but auteurs is a word that seems really fancy for us. 

Now that Dumb and Dumber To is coming out, is it time to start rumors about a Kingpin sequel?
You know, if we ever were going to do another one, it would be Kingpin. Because Ernie McCracken won that tournament, you know? And it does seem logical, but I don't know. I don't know how we could do it without Randy Quaid. That was a fun memory, that movie. All the movies have been, but any time you have Bill Murray.