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"ME, MYSELF & IRENE"
(2000) (Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A police officer must contend with his split personality disorder while trying to save a woman who's on the lam from criminals, crooked cops and corrupt government officials.
PLOT:
Charlie Baileygates (JIM CARREY) is a seventeen-year veteran of the Rhode Island police force. Mild-mannered to the point of repeatedly being ignored and/or taken advantage of, the motorcycle cop stoically accepts the many indignities thrown his way, the most major being when his wife, Layla (TRAYLOR HOWARD), runs off with a dwarf limo driver (TONY COX) after he fathered their three African-American boys.

With the years passing, those boys -- Jamaal (ANTHONY ANDERSON), Lee Harvey (MONGO BROWNLEE) and Shonté Jr. (JEROD MIXON) - have grown into well-educated, but foul-mouthed young men who love and respect their dad. Unfortunately, no one else in their town does and after receiving one too many affronts thrown his way, Charlie finally snaps. As a result, his psychologically deranged alter ego, Hank (JIM CARREY) emerges as a vengeful cop determined to offer a lot of payback to those who were previously disrespectful to him.

Diagnosed and medicated for a case of advanced delusional schizophrenia with involuntary narcissistic rage, Charlie is assigned by his superior, Colonel Partington (ROBERT FORSTER), to escort the indignant and ticked off Irene (RENEE ZELLWEGER) back to upstate New York where she's to face questions about her knowledge and involvement in fraud and embezzlement committed by her boss and possible former lover, Dickie Thurman (DANIEL GREENE).

Once Charlie delivers Irene to local cop Lt. Gerke (CHRIS COOPER) and federal agent Boshane (RICHARD JENKINS), he thinks his assignment is complete. When someone later kills Boshane's partner while looking for Irene, however, he's suddenly pulled back into the case. Hitting the road to protect her but forgetting his pills, Charlie tries delivering her one more time to Gerke, but after a close call involving him and the suddenly reemerged Hank, they decide they must stay on the road and out of sight.

As such, and after picking up an albino waiter, Whitey (MICHAEL BOWMAN), Charlie and Irene try to figure out what's going on and save her from danger. With the police, federal agents and Charlie's three sons all looking for him, the improbable road trio tries to solve their dilemma, all while dealing with repeated appearances by Hank who's prepared to take on anyone or anything in his way.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
They've made us laugh - or at least attempted to do so -- with jokes about idiots and laxative-laced coffee, unknowingly drinking previously undrinkable body fluids, a bull being milked and an unconventional way of removing horseshoes, not to mention scenes featuring sensitive body parts and zippers, body fluids used as hair products and laughs coming at the expense of nearly everyone and anyone, no matter their age, sex or condition.

He's amused us by similarly demonstrating idiotic humor, vocally exaggerated catch phrases, an incredibly flexible and elastic body and face that seemingly can be contorted into nearly any shape or form, and the ability to speak from a certain part of the body usually not associated with intelligible sounds.

They, of course, are Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the brotherly writing and directing duo responsible for "Dumb and Dumber," "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary." He's Jim Carrey, the box office star of films such as "Liar, Liar," "The Mask" and those "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" pictures.

Due to their similar notions and delivery of often lowbrow and sophomoric humor and physical comedy in their films, the pairing of Carrey with the Farrellys would not only seem like a no-brainer, but also the recipe for hilarious antics and subsequent box office success. Of course, for those whose brain cells weren't destroyed by the experience, that's already happened in 1994's "Dumb and Dumber," the Farrellys' first feature and one of Carrey's biggest hits after leaving the TV show that turned him into a star, "In Living Color."

As far as hilarious and/or successful, the latter is almost certainly a given, while the former is all a matter of taste, or lack thereof. The Farrellys have never been - nor does it seem, based on their track record, will ever be - accused of or applauded for attempting to deliver sophisticated or highbrow comedy. Instead, they rely on humor best described as vulgar, crude, lacking in good taste and undeniably politically incorrect (and that's the opinion of their supporters and fans).

Whether such material is their reaction to an increasingly politically correct world -- where everyone is ultra-careful not to offend anyone -- is something only they can answer. It is obvious, however, that their style of humor and storytelling has its share of admirers and detractors. As such, many enjoy their irreverent and often outrageous brand of comedy, while others either don't get it or simply find it too offensive to be amusing.

Regardless of one's reaction to their attempts at being funny, few will argue with the fact that they're clearing not the best filmmakers in the world and that the basic, underlying plots of their films are usually nowhere as inspired as the jokes and humor stemming from them.

That's certainly the case here with their basic story that was reportedly written a decade or so ago before being recently updated upon their success and Carrey accepting the lead role. As it stands, it's not much more than a basic comic riff on the old "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "The Incredible Hulk" plots where one's alter ego arrives - often due to bullying catalysts - and becomes a troublemaker.

Of course, that troublemaker here is none other than Jim Carrey, and if there's anyone who could pull off such a stunt - and make it funny - he's the one. After mixed results and reaction to his more "serious" performances ("The Truman Show" succeeded while "Man on the Moon" flopped), the rubbery-faced contortionist returns to sophomoric material and certainly can't be accused of not giving it his all.

Yet, where much of his behavior is funny and occasionally hilarious, just as many of those antics get old and/or miss their comedic marks. I've never been a huge fan of the actor's more aggressive and mean-spirited characters, and if you feel the same way, you might likewise tire of his portrayal of Hank, notwithstanding the demented Dirty Harry vocalizations.

His physical humor, on the other hand, is constantly amazing and mostly topnotch. Considering the setup of two conflicting personalities residing in the same body, one constantly waits for the ensuing tug of war (as occurred with Steve Martin in "All of Me") and the big battle for control of the body (as Carrey previously demonstrated in "Liar, Liar").

While the big moment does finally arrive late in the film - and much of it's brilliantly executed from a physical comedy standpoint (such as one character picking up the other and carrying him over his shoulder - while both are in the same body) - it's not quite as funny as one would imagine it would be, especially considering the comedian and the filmmakers involved in such shenanigans.

As far as the rest of the performers, they clearly fall into Carrey's constantly contorting shadow. Playing the "straight man" to his shenanigans, Renee Zellweger ("The Bachelor," "Jerry Maguire") can't do much with her sourpuss of a character as it's written and subsequently developed, but Anthony Anderson ("Big Momma's House," "Liberty Heights"), Mongo Brownlee ("Con Air," "Bulworth") and Jerod Mixon ("How To Be A Player," "Bulworth") do manage to elicit some laughs with their performances.

Playing three African-American triplets born to Charlie's family via their mother's affair with a black, dwarf limo driver, the first laughs pertaining to them stem from their large sizes contrasting with Carrey's slimness, while their later combination of academic smarts and profanity-spewing, streetwise demeanor brings out the rest.

The other supporting performers, including Chris Cooper ("American Beauty," "October Sky"), Richard Jenkins ("What Planet Are You From?" "Random Hearts") and Daniel Greene ("Kingpin," "Arthur II: On the Rocks"), are stuck in the lame and uninspired subplot (of playing villains and/or federal agents trying to find Charlie and Irene) that goes nowhere and unnecessarily grounds their thespian abilities.

Meanwhile, newcomer Michael Bowman is mainly present, it seems, due to him being an albino, just like his character. As such, he's the butt of several jokes and seems to be fulfilling the film's need for a Chris Elliot-type character. Finally, Rex Allen, Jr. delivers the voiceover narration that aurally resembles what his father provided for so many of those Disney nature pictures of yesteryear, but its use is sporadic at best and loses the nostalgic novelty factor after a few passages.

While there are some good and occasionally outrageous laughs to be had, and Jim Carrey continues to defy basic biological physics with his amazing facial and body contortions, the rest of the movie is too flat, slow, boring and certainly not funny enough for a film like this. Certain to offend or gross out as many viewers at it amuses, "Me, Myself & Irene" has some funny and inspired moments, but not enough to make it as good as it could and should have been. As such, the film rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed June 15, 2000 / Posted June 23, 2000


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