Lloyd and Harry are back. These two less-than-clever friends play profound jokes on each other. As the film opens, Harry learns that the last twenty years of his life have been largely wasted due to one of Lloyd’s jokes. Now, Harry has told Lloyd that Harry’s kidney is failing. When Harry and Lloyd visits Harry’s parents, they inform Harry that they can’t donate to him because they’re his adoptive parents rather than his “real parents.” But, while there, Harry discovers a note from a former girlfriend, sent 20 years ago, telling him “I’m pregnant. Please call me.” Harry and Lloyd set out to find Harry’s newly-discovered adult child in the hopes that this unknown individual will provide Harry with a kidney. Along the way, they discover that she was relinquished for adoption; when they meet her adoptive family, they stumble into a dangerous situation as a sinister stepparent plots to kill her husband.
How Does This Connect to Adoption?
Dumb and Dumber To is profoundly tied to adoption, but it’s not in a good way. The portrayals of adoption in the film are painfully done and will probably be offensive to many.
Harry is Caucasian, and his parents are both Asian. When he asks them to donate a kidney to him, they reveal that he was adopted. Harry believes that he has an adult daughter, Penny, who was adopted away as an infant.
Penny’s birthmother discusses Penny’s adoption, “I gave her up for adoption because I was broke and scared. I regretted it as soon as I did it.”
Penny, who has trouble with big words, describes Harry as her “biographical” father. It’s an interesting word choice.
** SPOILER ALERT **
An elderly couple, whose son died decades ago, learns that they have a biological, adult granddaughter. They embrace her, and are delighted to welcome her into their family.
** END SPOILER**
At times, Harry seems to be thinking about the responsibilities of parenthood. He does take time to imagine what parenthood would have been like.
Penny’s birthmother intends to respect Penny’s wishes about contact. More on this under Weak Points, though.
Penny’s adoptive father loves her. She eventually is reunited with her birthmother and they get along very well.
Penny’s adoptive father is receptive to Penny’s birthparents trying to find Penny.
Lloyd and Harry are, at times, selfless in their friendship for each other.
There are a lot of problems. Here are some of them:
The plot of the movie centers on Harry trying to find his daughter in order to get one of her kidneys.
Harry asks Lloyd, “What did I ever do” for my child. Lloyd suggest, “you filled him with wonder – as in, I wonder who my deadbeat dad is.”
Lloyd and Harry talk about the fortunate aspects of Harry’s life. Lloyd says that if some tragic circumstances hadn’t happened, then Harry “wouldn’t have a bastard kid that’s gonna save your life.” Harry agrees, “Yeah, God’s sure got a sense of humor.” Lloyd adds, “Yeah, I bet he smokes weed.”
When Harry’s parents disclose that he is adopted, the conversation uses some unfortunate word choices. They explain to him, “We love you, Harry. You’re not our real son. You’re adopted… Sorry, we thought you knew.” Lloyd tries to encourage Harry by saying, “Your real parents are out there,” but he is curtly interrupted by Harry’s father, who says, “Your parents are dead.” – That ends the conversation.
Lloyd tells Penny about Harry by referring to him as “your real dad. The guy who abandoned you when you were a child.”
Penny’s adoptive stepmother is trying to kill her adoptive father, and is also trying to isolate Penny. When Penny’s birthmother wrote a letter to contact Penny, Penny’s adoptive stepmother intercepted the letter, and wrote “return to sender and never contact again.” For years, Penny’s birthmother thought that Penny wanted no contact, when in actuality Penny never knew about the letter.
Lloyd becomes attracted to a picture of Harry’s daughter, and fantasizes about Harry telling him (very crudely) to have sex with her. Later, Lloyd comes to believe that Penny is actually his own daughter.
Penny’s adoptive mother calls her a “bitch” and tries to murder her.
At the end of the film, we learn that neither Harry nor Lloyd could be Penny’s father, because they never had sex with her mother. They just didn’t know that sex was a critical part of producing babies.
Penny’s adoptive father expresses that he “didn’t know much about Penny’s natural parents. Just that she had a single mom who was a titanic whore.”
In general, the paradigm of “titanic whore” birthmother and “dumb and dumber” birthfather opposed
to millionaire philanthropist scientist adoptive father is unhelpful.
Penny’s adoptive father and birthmother have sex within about 15 minutes of meeting. They quickly decide to move in together.
Lloyd and Harry indicate that they’d be less interested in meeting Harry’s daughter “if she has AIDS.”
At one point, Harry expresses his desire to “protect my daughter.” Lloyd ridicules him.
Harry’s parents kicked him out of the house when he told them he was gay; they have not had contact for 20 years, even though they live a block away from each other. Harry is not actually gay, but he said he was in an attempt to be relieved of his chores.
Penny’s birthmother is desperate to meet her, but she is told by an uncaring employee, “You’ve waited 22 years, what’s another few hours.”
Lloyd and Harry are supposed to be idiots; those are their characters. Along the way, though, they say some things that, while intended to highlight their own ignorance, could also be painful or upsetting for some viewers. One character encourages another to be glad that he hadn’t conceived children with a red-headed woman, asking, “Would you really want ginger babies?” One character is called a “titanic whore.” One character makes fun of an elderly lady’s Asian accent. Ethnic stereotypes are used in attempts at humor. Lloyd and Harry harass a blind neighbor. Jokes are made about the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. Lloyd and Harry speak insensitively to a couple whose son died years ago. An elderly lady tricks Lloyd into fondling her genitals.
Dumb and Dumber To will probably solicit some laughs from many viewers, and it does have some healthy relationships – Penny’s adoptive father loves her, and her birthmother does as well – but, in general, from an adoption point of view, it’s a train wreck. It’s one of the rare films that I’m going to go ahead and not recommend at all. The theme of a man searching out his heretofore unknown, adult children was also covered in Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man. That film was also humorous, but portrayed a much less selfish picture of the birth father. That’d probably be a better choice.
Questions for Discussion
Why do you think Penny’s stepmother tried to keep Penny from knowing her birthmother?
How damaging do you think it is for films to portray birthfathers as largely self-centered?