Dumb and Dumber To hits theaters today, nearly 20 years after the original Dumb and Dumber came out. Which prompts a question: How will a franchise that’s almost the age of a legal adult perform, in terms of both critical acclaim and box office dollars?
Projections for Dumb and Dumber To are looking fairly positive; EW predicts that the sequel will open to $29 million at 3,152 theaters nationwide. But these sorts of sequels have often been labeled the box office version of clickbait—and criticized for being just plain bad. EW examined long-gestating sequels from the past several decades to determine how they fared when stacked up to the first film, in terms of their domestic box office and their Metacritic scores, or Rotten Tomatoes scores when Metacritic was not available.
Gathering the box offices hauls for each film and its sequel, we adjusted all films for inflation so we could see what they would have earned in 2014’s economy. We then compared the amount of time that elapsed in between each original movie and sequel, each pair’s respective gains or losses at the box office, and the changes in critic aggregate scores.
The film pairings used, in alphabetical order of the original film are: 2001: A Space Odyssey/2010: The Year We Make Contact, An American Werewolf in London/An American Werewolf in Paris, Basic Instinct/Basic Instinct 2, Blues Brothers/Blues Brothers 2000, Carrie/The Rage: Carrie 2, Chinatown/The Two Jakes, Clerks/Clerks II, Dirty Dancing Dirty/Dancing: Havana Nights, Psycho/Psycho II, The Best Man/The Best Man Holiday, The Hustler/The Color of Money, The Silence of the Lambs/Hannibal, Tron/Tron Legacy, and Wall Street/Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
The first graph takes a look at the first films’ box office hauls and critic scores, while the second chart looks at the same information for the sequels. Box office amounts are in blue, and the critic aggregate scores are in red.
So what does this mean for Dumb and Dumber To? Well, it’s not great news. Every sequel that came out more than 10 years after the original saw a decrease in Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes score, save for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The majority of films tumbled by more than 10 Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes points, with The Rage: Carrie 2 plummeting 71 points.
What about box office? Well, the numbers may look promising at first glance, until you count in inflation. Of the 14 franchises analyzed, only four sequels earned a higher box office, while 10 saw a lower financial return. And limiting the genre of the films to comedy doesn’t indicate much for Dumb and Dumber To: Clerks II earned more than its predecessor, while Blues Brothers 2000 lost money in comparison to the original.
Considering only films with gaps of 20 or more years doesn’t necessarily paint a better picture for Dumb and Dumber To either. Of the five sequels we examined—Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Rage: Carrie 2, Psycho 2, The Color of Money, and Tron Legacy—three of the films earned less money than the original films with inflation added to the mix. The Color of Money and Tron Legacy both stood out and garnered a higher domestic box office haul than its original.
While Dumb and Dumber To has the nostalgia factor down, it doesn’t really scream high-budget blockbuster franchise in the vein of a Tron. Dumb and Dumber’s domestic box office haul of $127.2 million in 1994 would be $203.3 million in 2014 dollars.
If Dumb and Dumber To beats those numbers, it will be one of the few sequels to come at least 20 years after the original film that’s managed that feat. And the general downturn of critics’ scores don’t bode well for Dumb and Dumber To either. True, the Farrelly brothers’ fart-joke antics set a low bar for the original film on Metacritic with, 39 points—but statistically speaking, the number should still go downhill from there.