Me, Myself & Irene (2000)

D: Peter and Bobby Farrelly
S: Jim Carrey, Renée Zellweger

Awkward combination of straightforward and madcap action from Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) following the misadventures of Rhode Island traffic cop Jim Carrey who, after years of repressing his rage at the indignities heaped upon him by a cruel world, suffers a psychotic break and develops a second personality which emerges at times of confrontation. In his ordinary state, our hero is Charlie, a gentle, inoffensive police officer. Hank, his alter-ego is a maniac who is far from shy about expressing his rage. Okay, so now we have the character, what do we do with him? Hmmm. Let's concoct a story about he falls in love with a girl as both men. Let's cast Renée Zellweger (The Bachelor), she's a fox. Okay, so now what about antagonists? Well, you see we have a protagonist who is an antagonist, so do we really need villains? Let's toss in a couple anyway, and let's add some stuff about fraud and golf courses, yeah, that'll do. We'll make Zellweger a runaway witness, that way we can do some of the road movie stuff we've done before and we can do some thriller action. We have a couple of other character gags we can throw in as well, so let's do that. Oh, and I've got this great idea about stuffing a chicken up a man's ass, can we do that? Yuk yuk, sure. Okay, let's just make the movie. What can we make Jim do? He's such a funny guy.

Yes, I think this line of thought probably aptly sums up the thought processes behind the script for this film, which literally fails to do anything with its high concept conceit except let Jim Carrey rip. And rip he does. As ever, Carrey is a very effective physical comedian. His lanky body and rubbery face have been well used many times in the past (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask), and he does a good job here portraying the inner and outer struggle of his character. He repeats the self-assault scene from Liar, Liar on several occasions and generally does his thing as best he can. The problem is that there are no other characters in the movie apart from Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, and Jerod Mixon as Carrey's three hyper-intellegent sons. Even they serve as a single gag-producing unit, so everyone else is simply ballast, including poor Zellweger. Several familiar Farrelly faces turn up in smaller roles, but unlike in There's Something About Mary, the character vignettes are simply not interesting or funny enough to keep the movie together around its star. The plot is reactive and directionless, the pace is slow, and the resolution so painfully contrived that it is difficult to keep from grinding one's teeth. At the end one is left feeling more Hank than Charlie.

The real problem sets in when you realise that there's something creepily uncomfortable about Carrey's character too. The film alternates awkwardly between comedy and thriller (failing to pull off the balancing act of its immediate predecessor of making both elements work). The result is that, as with Kingpin, it is difficult to actually laugh at this character. There's something too painfully real at the centre of the over-the-top hysterics, and somehow you find the laughs trapped in your throat and something close to dumbfoundment sets in instead. There has been controversy about the film. Some mental health groups have objected to it and asked for the poster blurb "From Gentle to Mental" to be changed to "Meet Charlie. Meet Hank." Whether a studio contrivance or a genuine request, this contributes to the feeling that there is something just not funny about the situation, at least as it has been presented, and something amiss at the centre of it which proves its ultimate undoing.

The film will probably still appeal to some viewers. It does have its funny moments (mostly towards the beginning), and those not particularly worried about the consequence of representation may well enjoy it as a broad, cartoonish dumbfest in the style of its predecessors. But I think few will find it as much fun as either Dumb & Dumber or There's Something About Mary, and though Carrey fans can happily watch him doing what he does best, one does come to appreciate just how important directorial pace and timing are to his films because they are so noticeably absent here. It seems as if the Farrellys are falling victim to a one-two punch combo here, following Dumb and Dumber with Kingpin and now There's Something About Mary with Me, Myself & Irene. Hopefully they will recover their wits next time out before they deliver themselves a knockout blow from which they can't get up.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2000.