Me, Myself & Irene

Hank/Charlie (Jim Carrey) gets tough with a youngster in Me, Myself & Irene.
(© 2000 Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.)

M O V I E   R E V I E W   B Y   D A V I D   N G

What’s surprising about Me, Myself & Irene is not how much the funny parts make us laugh but how forgettable the rest of it is. Even the most brain-dead mallrat will sense something oddly mediocre about this latest addition to the Farrelly brother oeuvre. When the bodily fluids and general mean-spiritedness stop flying, the movie’s banality glares like cheap aluminum siding. And every scene has a whiff of deja-vu. In some cases, the Farrelly brothers steal from their own movies. With Me, Myself & Irene, they’ve degenerated into class clowns who’ve resorted to endlessly repeating their own fart and pee jokes.

In the title role(s), Jim Carrey uses what he learned from The Truman Show and Man on the Moon to invest his character with pathos, but his efforts are futile. His Charlie, a meek Rhode Island state trooper, serves as little more than a resilient punching bag for the movie’s low humor. Charlie has let people push him around his whole life. First, his wife commits adultery with a black dwarf, and then she gives birth to three black children. Eventually, his wife runs off with the dwarf. Charlie, who is in denial over the paternity of his children, becomes the town’s laughing stock. One day he has all he can take, and his personality splits, creating Hank, a smarmy lecher who’s the polar opposite of Charlie’s boy scout.

The set-up is essentially a variation on The Nutty Professor. Carrey has only to shift between high and low gears to complete his character. He’s quite funny, reminding us of what a great physical comedian he is. This is Carrey doing what Carrey does best, but he doesn’t break any new ground. There’s an undeniable feeling that he’s too old and (dare I say?) mature for this fluff.

Charlie gets into a fight with a limo driver in Me, Myself & Irene.
(© 2000 Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.)

Much funnier are Charlie’s three black children. All grown up, their blackness clashes cheerfully with the town’s Martha Stewart-inspired sensibilities. What’s more, they each turn out to be certified geniuses (their parents were both chapter presidents of Mensa). Again, the Farrelly brothers are recycling old material, this time from There’s Something About Mary in which Cameron Diaz’s mother, the very white Markie Post, marries a very black Keith David. But the kids (played by Anthony Anderson, Jerod Mixon, and Mongo Brownlee) generate enough comic hysteria to drown out even Carrey. They shoot da shit on topics ranging from nuclear physics to their SAT scores, using words like "motherfucking" and "dumbass" to seemingly describe everything.

It’s too bad they don’t have more scenes. The rest of Me, Myself & Irene follows a boring, asinine plot about a woman on the run from crooked cops. The woman is Irene (Renee Zellweger) who ends up in Rhode Island and must be escorted by Carrey back to upstate New York. This provides ample time for a by-the-books romance as well as a couple of well-choreographed comic scenes, one involving a cow that won’t die and the other a post-sex urinating disaster. Zellweger is competent and harmless -- the Farrelly brothers’ latest incarnation of a comic muse. Irene doesn’t have Mary’s luminescence, but she’s occasionally funny and pleasant to be around all the same.

The idiotic plot, however, is as insufferable as it is inconsequential. It’s never clear what’s happening, only that a wealthy landowner is conspiring with a couple of cops against the EPA to defraud… what? It doesn’t matter. It’s a skimpy structure even by Farrelly standards. The climax, involving a shoot out and rescue, not only feels out of place but it's completely laugh-free -- as if the Farelly brothers let a B-school intern finish the job.

The unfortunate result is an amateurish quality that infects the rest of the movie. The comic scenes feel that much more desperate and jejune: they’re dragged down instead of elevated by the ridiculousness of it all. Me, Myself & Irene is still a funny movie with winning performances. But it’s a hollow comic exercise that could have been accomplished more efficiently as a Saturday Night Live sketch. In their attempt to popularize low-brow humor, the Farrelly brothers have regressed one step too far.

[rating: 2½ of 4 stars]