December 16, 1994: “Dumb and Dumber” and a perfect night at the movies

It gets worse, Lloyd. Y’know my parakeet Petey?
He’s dead.
Oh man…I’m sorry…what happened?
His head fell off.
His head fell off?
Yeah, he was pretty old.

Harry and Lloyd

I only had a girlfriend for about four months in my entire time in high school, but it happened in my junior year, 1994-95. That Fall my friends and I had begun to see trailers for this new, outrageously stupid Jim Carrey movie, appropriately titled (at least based on the trailers), Dumb and Dumber.

“Tic-tac, sir?”

Ace Ventura and The Mask had been released earlier that same year, meaning Jim Carrey had meteorically risen to a must-see for typical 16 and 17-year old boys like us. As a result, we planned a “Guys Night Out” for the opening night—no girls, and especially no girlfriends—allowed. My brother Ashley and I and eight of our best friends piled into several cars and made our way to the mall in Florence, SC. For one of those rare nights where the event ended up outstripping the anticipation.

“Hey, look, they got the Monkees! They were a huge influence on the Beatles.”

The night had a very auspicious start, as we got there very early to make sure we got tickets and just planned to walk around the mall while waiting. My friend Wade (who went by “Paco” for Spanish class) got into a marathon flirtatious conflict with a girl we didn’t know and who was there with a similar group of female friends. She took something of his. He ended up taking something of hers. And as we waited in line to actually get into the theater she was begging for it back. We were all saying, “Don’t give it to her, Paco!” And other guys in the line, whom we also didn’t know but apparently wanted to join in the fun, were also saying, “Don’t give it to her, Paco!” Everyone was laughing at the whole ridiculous scene. It was just a foreshadowing of what was to come.

“And he says, ‘Do you love me?’ And she says, ‘NO! But that’s a real nice ski mask!'”

So the ten of us were among the first to enter the theater and we immediately ran to the back row, where we took up every seat. This was in the days before stadium seating, so this was prime real estate for a movie like this. We were pumped. We’d been laughing all night at each other (mostly at Paco), so we were warmed up to laugh our heads off. Yet I don’t think we had any idea how epic this night was about to get.

“We got no food! We got no jobs! OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”

Within like 15 seconds, I think we got an idea. I was already laughing hard by the time Jim Carrey in that pumpkin pie haircut and real-life chipped tooth stuck his head out of the back of the limo. Before even one word of dialogue was spoken. So by the time he tells the Austrian-accented woman, “Well G’day mate! Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!” my laughter grew quite boisterous. And it only got more hilarious from there, as the movie relentlessly assaulted us with more one-liners, physical comedy and general made-for-teenage-boy idiocy than we could stand.

“Really? That’s great! WE LANDED ON THE MOON!”

I’ve often said that there isn’t a 3-minute stretch in all of Dumb and Dumber where I go without laughing. During the original viewing, I doubt any of us made it 30 seconds. The laughter from the entire audience, and especially us teenage boys on the back row, was riotous and constant. Often at the movie theater in my youth, I would laugh so hard I would become a spectacle. And others in the theater would turn and look at me. But not this night. EVERYONE was laughing so hard I just blended in. I had at least three ROTFL moments and I don’t think I was alone even in that extreme reaction.

Why ya’ goin’ to the airport? Flyin’ somewhere?

One of the truly surprising things about Dumb and Dumber was that while Carrey had the best quotes, Jeff Daniels had the best scenes. I don’t know that I even knew Daniels in 1994. Ashley did because he loved the film Gettysburg. I’d seen Arachnophobia but didn’t recall him. Yet the two hardest laughs of the movie are what is affectionately known as “The Bathroom Scene” and the snowball fight he has with Mary. Those two, along with Lloyd’s dream sequence, are the scenes that caused me to literally fall on the theater floor laughing. Daniels testified in interviews years later that people told him by signing on to work with Carrey, he’d be eclipsed the whole movie. He was not. And as a result, he has quite the range in his filmography, from supremely sublime drama to utter scatological comedy.

“Husband? What was all that ‘one-in-a-million’ talk?”

The legacy of Dumb and Dumber for guys like me is as timeless as it is enormous. Three years after release, Ashely dropped me off for orientation at the University of South Carolina, to be away from home for the first night. And before he pulled away he told me to be safe and “Don’t you go dying on me!” Referencing Lloyd’s final words to the little old lady on the motorized cart. Four years after the movie released I met a guy on the campus of Welch College named Joel Riley. As we ended our conversation and were about to go to our respective rooms, I randomly said, “Big Gulps, huh?” And he immediately responded. “Yeah. See ya later.” And a deep friendship was instantly born.

I still remember watching this movie with several guys in college during Christmas of 98 and laughing so hard at the snowball fight we had to keep rewinding it. Years ago 538 reported that the 0-10 Cleveland Brows had still had like a one in 19 quintillion chance of making the playoffs. So I linked the article to Facebook and commented, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” And what guy currently in his late 30s or early 40s hasn’t at some point made an argument with, “You can’t triple stamp a double stamp! You can’t triple stamp a double stamp!” And even today, I can go to YouTube and watch Carrey’s ad-libbed “Most annoying sound in the world” and laugh as hard as I did that night.

“The town…is back that way.”

So there’s a good chance my nostalgic feelings about this movie, which I unashamedly believe is the funniest of all time, make me biased. Because of that glorious, carefree, laugh-for-90-minutes-straight night on the back row of Magnolia Mall’s theater in 1994. There may be movies that in a vacuum I’d think were funnier, but I’ll never know. This movie has become deeply intertwined with one night in my life where the innocence and joy of youth collided with friendship and a shared bonding experience. Centered around laughing till we cried pools of tears. I cannot believe it’s been 25 years. But even if I live another 50, I’ll never forget that night at the movies. Dumb and Dumber was no doubt dumb. But it was as perfect a night as I can remember.

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married nearly seven years and have a 3-year-old son, Liam Erasmus. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

3 thoughts on “December 16, 1994: “Dumb and Dumber” and a perfect night at the movies

  • December 16, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Sometimes the experience of watching a movie elevates that movie in remarkable ways. I had a similar experience watching “Nacho Libre” with a group of guys – most of them REO contributors.

  • December 16, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Nice! Wish I could have been there. I had a few really good comedy theater experiences – Tommy Boy being another one that I saw with about 6 people in a mixed group. But only one was as insane as D&D. The boat scene in TB is one of those times people in the theater began to look at me.

  • December 17, 2019 at 9:46 am

    A nostalgic recall, well-written, as are all your articles, Gowdy.


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