Friday, 30 September 2016

'Dumb And Dumber' | The Hero's Journey

The hero's journey, a structure that has been bouncing around the walls of the cinematic universe for decades, filling countless stories with a familiar pretense that audiences across the world can not only enjoy, but also relate to. Now although more commonly found in action adventures, such as the Star Wars franchise (1977-present) or The Lion King (1994), there is no doubt that this un-ageing trope is more than present in a number of other genres including horror and comedy, leading this review onto its subject of choice, the Farrely brothers 1995 comedy, Dumb And Dumber.

Image result for dumb and dumber poster
Fig 1: Dumb And Dumber, Poster

now although The hero's journey exists in a 17 step structure, it can be further paired into a 3 part layout, allowing it to be identified in a number of different productions and borderline unavoidable after realizing this familiar face is littered throughout cinema. Pekar states that "Most of us want to rise above challenges, emerging not only victorious, but also heroic"(Pekar, 2013), which does indeed suggest the reason these plots appeal to audiences is most certainley, familiarity. This structure is without a doubt apparent in the road trip fiasco that is Dumb And Dumber, a film being described as having "not a lot of brain work involved"(Klady, 1994). whether it be defending off more capable foes on the road or 'getting the girl' in the final act, its all there in this comedy epic.

The first stage of this 3 part structure is separation, a step that runs throughout the first act of almost any film, a stage where the hero, or in this case heroes, are given a task to accomplish and the tools necessary to do this. The first step in this process is 'the call to adventure', in our protagonists case this is Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) retrieving what he believes to be a forgotten briefcase at the airport left by his client, Mary (Lauren Holly), and realizing he needs to get it back to her. After this step comes 'the refusal of the call', which shows its self as Lloyd's roommate Harry (Jeff Daniels), explains that the pair simply don't have the means to travel across the country to deliver the missing briefcase, something that Carrey's character seems a little too heartbroken about. Next comes 'the supernatural aid' a stage in which a piece of knowledge or an object is passed on to the hero to help them carry out their quest. Now in Dumb And Dumber this stage isn't that obvious, but is never the less there, it seems to be a combination of Harry allowing the journey to be carried out in his work vehicle, or as its later described "An 84 Sheepdog", and what the pair believe to be the gas man knocking on their doors for owed money, forcing the heroes to embark on the luggage based quest ultimately  close the first stage of the structure.
Image result for dumb and dumber
Fig 2: Dumb And Dumber, Screenshot

The middle stage of the hero's journey structure is known as the initiation, a time in the film where all the essential events take place and our heroes are put through their paces on their quest. The first step in this stage is 'crossing the threshold' which in Harry and Lloyd's case is literally climbing from the apartment window and setting off on their road trip in there car. Now comes 'the belly of the whale', a stage where our heroes are immersed into a different world than their own and are challenged, in this case it manifests itself as the diner scene, where Harry and Lloyd evade having to pay their bill after tricking the bully type character of Seabass (Cam Neely), ensuring that they leave the Diner as very different people to when they entered. The next step is known as 'the road of trials' which is shown as an almost literal example in Dumb And Dumber, as the pair literally travel across roads meeting odd challenges and steps that they must overcome to continue their journey. The next two steps in the process are almost merged into one in the case Harry and Lloyd, as 'meeting the goddess' and 'temptation' are both shown in Lloyd's day dream which is essentially a fantasy of the love interest, Mary. Not only does Lloyd find motivation to continue on the journey in his dream, but is also faced with having to be honest with his companion Harry and tell him the real reason he was so desperate to embark on their journey.

Essentially arriving at the mid way point now, the heroes have not only embarked on the potentially perilous quest, but have also been faced with a number of tasks that have not only shaped the story but the characters themselves. The next step in the initiation is the 'atonement with the father', which is a little hard to pick up on in the Farrely brothers tale, in a way this step manifests itself in the form of an accidental murder, as Harry and Lloyd unknowingly feed rat poison to an (unbeknownst to them) criminal, which leads to the death of the man and the protagonists rise to a wanted level, leaving them with the same reputation as the victim. This step begins to run as an undertone for the remaining screen time, as the authorities are now on the hunt for the pair, believing them to be high level criminals at large. The idea of this step is normally a lot more apparent to the protagonists in other movies, but due to Dumb And Dumber being the comedy that it is, this step seems to have been turned into a slight secondary theme to add some bountiful ingredients to the pot of comedy that's been simmering since the pair set out on their journey. Now the 'apotheosis' step is also a little different in Dumb And Dumber as Harry and Lloyd are certainly beginning to be known as high level criminals to the authority, but not to their own knowledge, all together adding to this same pot of comedy mentioned earlier. One of the most famous steps follows, 'the ultimate boon', which also takes a strange shape due to the genre of the film, as the boon should be delivering the briefcase to Mary and beginning the completion of the journey, however in these heroes journey it takes the form of money, as the pair realise that the luggage has been full of money for their entire trip, nicely leading them to 'the refusal of return' as they begin to spend all the money and create lives for themselves in Aspen.

Now onto the final stage of the 3 act structure, the return, which normally sees the coming together of all the hero's hard work, however in this case a number of steps are arguably repeated to get there. As 'temptation' is revisited with Harry now being attracted to Mary and so is the 'road of trials' as the pair separate and begin to compete for the affection of the love interest. This isn't a common occurrence in the hero's journey, but due to the comedy style of the film it seems that the creators belief was most definitely that irregularity leads to hilariousity. Never the less the pair do begin to embark on the return eventually as the step known as the 'magic flight' is completed when Lloyd travels to Mary's house to finally deliver the briefcase and receive his hoped reward of eternal love. To comply with the rest of the story, this step obviously doesn't go to plan as Lloyd and Mary find themselves revealed to the secret plot that was running the entire time and are captured and held hostage by the lead criminal. This brings the story firmly onto the homeward stretch as 'rescue from without' comes in the form of a detective character who has been masquerading as a helpful civilian this entire time, arriving to arrest the criminal and release the pair. 

Image result for dumb and dumber
Fig 3: Dumb And Dumber, Screenshot

The film now reaches 'the crossing of the threshold', as Harry and Lloyd reunite Mary with her kidnapped husband are can begin their journey home, leaving the pair firmly as 'masters of two worlds' as they have conquered both their regular lives but also taken part in the destruction of a major crime plot. Leaving only one step left, Harry and Lloyd have come to the end of their comedy filled journey, leaving them with 'freedom to live' as they return home to their regular lives.

Dumb And Dumber seems to have most certainly stood the test of time and continues to crop up in pop culture to this day, leading it to be described as "a modern classic of the comedy genre" (Nusair, 2014), something that seems hard to disagree with. Although Dumb And Dumber doesn't always fit the hero's journey structure exactly, there is without a doubt evidence of it plainly insight throughout the film and most certainly leaves the pair in its closing scenes as hero's in the audience's eyes.   


Nusair, David, 2014, The Films Of The Farrely Borhters: Dumb&Dumber,, Accessed on: 30.09.16

Klady, Leonard, 1994, Review: 'Dumb and Dumber',, Accessed on: 30.09.16

Pekar, Thaler, 2013, What Will Replace The Hero's Journey?,, Accessed on: 30.09.16

Illustration List

Fig 1: Movie Poster, Dumb And Dumber,, Accessed on: 30.09.16

Fig 2: Screenshot, Dumb And Dumber,, Accessed on: 30.09.16

Fig 3: Screenshot, Dumb And Dumber,, Accessed on: 30.09.16


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