Filmed in Utah and released in 1994, “Dumb and Dumber” tells the story of two bosom buddies, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), who roadtrip from Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado, in a filthy golden lab-shaped van to return a briefcase full of money to Mary Swanson, a woman Lloyd has formed a parasocial relationship with. Gags, put-ons, leg pulls, gaffes, felony kidnapping and murder ensue.
“Dumb and Dumber” is arguably the blueprint for low-brow, slapstick buddy movies, a film that topped the charts the year it came out and quickly became a cult classic. It was also foundational for many elder millennials who came of age quoting some of the film’s iconic lines to one another. “Our pets’ heads are falling off!” was not an uncommon refrain to hear in the halls of any middle school in America.
Whether or not the film is good is irrelevant to those who found joy in it during their youth, and for the youth of Utah, that joy was multiplied exponentially by a sense of ownership. A large portion of the movie — both the Rhode Island scenes and the Aspen scenes — were filmed in our state, making “Dumb and Dumber” uniquely ours. Like how Napoleon Dynamite sent my small Cache Valley community into a piranha-like frenzy when it came out, not because it was anything Oscar-worthy, but because “Hey, I get fries at that Big J’s all the time.”
To immerse myself in the marriage of Utah scenery and the inaugural “Dumber” film from the ’90s, I toured the movie’s most iconic Utah filming sites.
“Dumb and Dumber” could not have been made today for multiple reasons. The more literal reason is the airport scenes were filmed at the old Salt Lake City airport. In a post-9/11 world, Lloyd would have spent 45 minutes dealing with security and busted a lung in Concourse B long after Mary’s plane took off for Aspen.
The old Salt Lake City airport, or what remains of it, marks the western edge of the Dumbersphere. While some scenes were filmed in Colorado, the majority of the movie was filmed in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Park City, as well as Sandy, the Heber Motel (which plays the Second Honeymoon Hotel), and stretches of state Route 111 near the Kennecott Copper Mine.
My exploration began in Ogden, birthplace of the iconic Big Gulps line Carrey reportedly improvised in the film and Dante’s Inferno, the diner where Harry and Lloyd commit hot pepper homicide.
Ogden has changed significantly since 1994 — when I was a kid, I remember hearing it less-than-lovingly referred to as the armpit of Utah — but even though the old 7-Eleven off Washington Boulevard, where Lloyd says, “Big Gulps huh?” has given up its ghost for a series of loan and checking offices (right now it’s a LendNation), the lot it sat on remains very much the same.
I brought my own libations in memoriam: a blue raspberry Slurpee in an Extra Large Big Gulp cup. It might have been the mix, it might have been the moment, but it did taste a little better on that curb.
As for Dante’s Inferno, where Lloyd and Harry accidentally murder the man who has been hired to kill them — it’s the American Legion Post No. 9 on 24th Street now.
Salt Lake City
Forty-five minutes south of Ogden, in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, you can find the Devereaux House and Rio Grande Depot where Lloyd and Harry crash the Snow Owl Benefit and accelerate the extinction of an entire species.
The Devereaux House, a beautiful red brick manor with a swooping circle drive fit for a fine carriage, was used as the outside facade of the Snow Owl Benefit while the Rio Grande Depot was used as the interior. The house is a slightly funny sight in real life, the very first mansion built in Utah now flea-like in scale at the feet of the KSL/Deseret News complex, Vivint Arena and The Gateway.
The depot is also a historic spot, and it, too, hasn’t overcome the swallow of urban sprawl. Come 2024, you’ll be able to dine inside the restored train station in your best orange three-piece suit then retire to bed in the towering new Asher Adams Hotel that is slated to bookend the depot’s west side.
Lloyd and Harry’s apartment complex is perhaps the Salt Lake City locale that has remained the least changed since its film debut in 1994. The building sits just north of Gourmandise downtown, where the clinks of cafe silverware and curlicues of steam rolling off fresh bread give way to the blare of radios tied to the backs of old bicycles and the sharp scent of cat feces.
The courtyard of the complex is quiet when I visit. Feathers coat almost every visible patch of grass near the entry, maybe the remains of a terrible massacre at the hands of hungry Salt Lake alleycats. Or maybe the locals’ way of paying tribute to sweet ol’ Petey the parakeet after all these years.
I trade dead fowl for the living at La Caille Restaurant, a Thomas Kinkadean fairy tale nestled at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, which fans of the film will recognize from Lloyd’s multiverse pipe dream wherein he wins Mary’s love. Both the interior and exterior were featured in the film. An old manor tucked away on the northwestern end of the La Caille’s grounds was also used for the exterior of Mary’s home in Rhode Island.
At La Caille, even the birds live in mansions — a white, shingled birdhouse with a balcony that could fit a small dog stands northwest of the restaurant. I wander the fountained storybook grounds in my ripped jeans and my Pressure Machine T-shirt. A striking blue peacock and his harem of white peahens stroll between the flowers, looking at me through the haughty side eyes of creatures built with a sixth sense for the lower class. I think to myself that I am both too underdressed and, judging from the four dollar signs on Google and the kinds of cars the valets are sprinting back and forth between, too underpaid to be here.
That aforementioned thought returns regularly in my self-guided tour of the houses used in Mary’s scenes. When the production crew said “give us houses that would be owned by someone who could line a suitcase end to end with hundos,” Utah delivered.
Mary’s “Aspen” home sits high in the mountains against Deer Valley Resort, where the bougie Lincoln-log houses tower over the road. My Buick can barely make it up the winding drive to get there, let alone the barnyard moped Lloyd uses to visit Mary.
On my way back down, warming my hands over the glowing light of my check engine signal, I pass a moose statue wearing a Pendleton-esque coat and fedora. He welcomes me to downtown Park City (aka Aspen), the final stop on my Dumbersphere tour.
A red trolley bus zips past, its little bell ringing. Across the street, a woman in a verdant dress is receiving directions from a camera-wielding auteur. An older woman by the Egyptian Theater is in the middle of the street taking pictures — nearly dying by Tesla for a few selfies. It’s not Aspen, but it feels like an Aspen.
I remember how my co-workers at the sporting goods store I worked at years ago asked each other “Big Gulps, huh?” almost every single day, a knowing glint in their eyes. I realize I’ve heard “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” often and ascribed to it an almost timeless etymology — an idiom from the 1600s you repeat without recognizing that at some point, it had to come from somewhere.
The movie serves as a time capsule, not just for the vocabulary that became a part of every ’90s kid’s life for a good five years, but for the images of a Utah now changed. Streets that appear in the film are now unrecognizable. Farmland has been replaced by corporate offices and loved retail spaces from the period are now gone.
For those of us who were raised and remain here, “Dumb and Dumber” offers a wash of nostalgia. When they say this movie is hard to forget, they mean it. And for the Salt Lake City visitor or local traversing the Wasatch grid, it’s impossible to go anywhere without being within a salt shaker’s throw of its influence.