Dumb and Dumber Won, Revisited

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The sequel to Dumb and Dumber arrives in theaters Nov. 14, but when the original came out on Dec. 6 of 1994 it didn’t merit a review in the pages of TIME. And, about a month later, when it finally got a write-up, it didn’t exactly need the praise: it had opened at number one and became the sixth-highest grossing movie of the year in the United States. It had already proved that it could make, as TIME’s critic Richard Schickel put it, “gross-out grosses.” The movie wasn’t trying to be sophisticated (in fact, the opposite) but, he wrote, “D and D — in comparison with which Jim Carrey’s other pictures look as if they were scripted by Oscar Wilde — makes you laugh out loud for almost its entire running time.”

The vindication continued.

In March of 1995, Schickel returned to the subject of Dumb and Dumber, and found that its power didn’t stop at the box-office. Rather, the movie was part of a trend. “Whole lot of stupidity going on at the movies these days, which is not altogether unusual,” Schickel wrote. “What’s different is that dumbness is so often a film’s subject, not merely the prime cause of its being made.” Though commentators at the time found such movies — also including Billy Madison and The Brady Bunch Movie — reason to cringe, audiences appeared to have no such qualms. And, naturally, neither did movie producers who, spurred initially by the success of Wayne’s World, rushed to churn out the dumbness.

But it turned out that not everything about those movies was dumb. “If dumbness is a large part of our problem” as a society, Schickel argued, seeing how stupid it was to be stupid could make us all a little bit smarter.

Read the full story here, in TIME’s archives: Sons of Wayne’s World

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com