It has a long time since Jim Carrey ruled the box office, but with “Dumb and Dumber To” the legendary screen comedian might finally be back on top. The much-anticipated sequel to 1994’s “Dumb and Dumber,” with co-star Jeff Daniels, is expected to make a big splash when it opens Friday, something that has eluded Carrey the past few years. When did Carrey, who in the 1990s was arguably the most popular film funnyman in the world, lose fans, and will “Dumb and Dumber To” bring them back?

Premiering in 1994 at the beginning of Jim Carrey’s surging popularity, “Dumb and Dumber” became a massive hit and a cult classic. His rise was further propelled that year by two more hits, “The Mask” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” In the two decades since "Dumb and Dumber," anticipation for a sequel has only grown, with social media tracking sky high for such a movie’s release. Now "Dumb and Dumber To" is expected to take the No. 1 box-office spot away from Disney's “Big Hero 6,” as well as beat out Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” en route to a projected $32 million take for its opening weekend.

However, while excitement for a “Dumb and Dumber” sequel has been growing for years, excitement about Jim Carrey movies in general has been dwindling. The comedian has seen a sharp decline in box-office receipts in the last 10 years. If “Dumb and Dumber To” tops $30 million in opening-weekend ticket sales it will be Carrey’s first movie to hit that mark since “A Christmas Carol” in 2009. That was also the last Carrey film to clear $100 million at the box office. Since 2009, Carrey’s last four films combined  -- “Kick-Ass 2,” “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “I Love You Phillip Morris” -- have only earned $122 million. So, what happened?

One easy answer for Carrey’s waning popularity could be the quality of the movies. Critics have panned the actor’s last few films. Rotten Tomatoes, a site that aggregates critics’ reviews, lists “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” as only 36 percent positive, “Kick-Ass 2” as only 29 percent positive and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” as 48 percent positive. However, a lack of critical acclaim has never hampered Carrey’s popularity. While he has had a handful of performances that have impressed critically, such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Man on the Moon” and "The Truman Show," many of Carrey’s biggest hits, like “Bruce Almighty,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Batman Forever," have been as harshly criticized as his latest blunders.

Carrey’s appeal has always been his exaggerated brand of physical comedy, which has delighted fans even as it puts off critics. However, his intense performances could have possibly worn on audiences over the past 10 years, resulting in a sort of Jim Carrey fatigue. Such original, more recent Carrey comedies as “Yes Man” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” while vehicles for his improvisational humor and physical comedy, were less successful than “Liar Liar” (1997) and “The Mask.”  

In fact, since “Bruce Almighty” a decade ago, Carrey’s only true box-office successes have come on the backs of franchises and established names, from “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” in 2004 to “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” in 2008 to 2009’s “A Christmas Carol.” After 20 years, Carrey alone might not be enough -- or may, more accurately, be too much.

That’s why “Dumb and Dumber To” has a chance to put him back on top. While fans might be sick of the same old Carrey in new roles, there is still a powerful nostalgia for the memorable characters the legendary comedian has created. While critics are, once again, unimpressed by the Carrey-led sequel, fans will likely show up Friday in droves, laughing too hard to care.

Watch the "Dumb and Dumber To" trailer below:

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