Me, Myself & Irene (United States, 2000)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

After taking a break to become involved in the production of the small coming-of-age drama Outside Providence, the Farrelly Brothers are at it again. Their 1998 hit, There's Something About Mary, will forever be known for breaking the semen barrier in mainstream movies. It also raised the vulgar comedy to new heights of profitability, proving that envelope-pushing will attract more viewers than it will drive away. Since There's Something About Mary, it seems that each new R-rated comedy has tried to exceed the gross-out quotient of its predecessors (American Pie, for example, was more raunchy and lewd than Mary), leading to a cavalcade of jokes about subjects that Mel Brooks wouldn't have touched in his heyday. However, for their latest, Me, Myself & Irene, the Farrellys have not joined the one-upsmanship game. Sure, this movie contains a fair amount of risqué material and more than a few jokes for people with a warped sense of humor, but, if anything, it is more tame than There's Something About Mary. Me, Myself & Irene sacrifices punch lines in order to develop characters and relationships.

Me, Myself & Irene highlights the continuing evolution of Jim Carrey as an actor (as opposed to a comic phenomenon). After submerging his personality in the poorly received Man on the Moon, Carrey is back to his usual, off-the-wall self. Here, he plays a modern version of Jekyll and Hyde, courtesy of a split personality disorder. This is Carrey's second outing for the Farrellys, and his work here is by far the better of the two. Unlike in the previous film (Dumb and Dumber), which was essentially a group of thinly-connected dumb jokes, Carrey's comic energy is effectively focused. He's not trying so hard to be funny that he becomes irritating. Working in movies like The Truman Show and Man on the Moon has honed Carrey's talent.

Carrey is Charlie and Hank, two faces of the same man. Charlie is meek, kind, and ineffectual. Hank, on the other hand, is aggressive and dumb, with an attitude and voice to match Dirty Harry. Charlie is one of the best liked members of the Rhode Island State Police Force, but, when he loses control of his mind and body and Hank emerges to go on a rampage, his career is in jeopardy. His captain (Robert Forster) sends him to deliver a female prisoner, Irene (Renee Zellweger), to an upstate New York police station. After that, he is supposed to take a little r&r. However, it turns out that Irene, the head groundskeeper at a golf course that was a front for criminal activity, may have seen something she shouldn't have, and, as a result, she has been marked for death by some crooked cops (Chris Cooper and Richard Jenkins). So, accompanied by an albino serial killer named Whitey (Michael Bowman), Charlie and Irene go on the lam.

As with the Farrellys' previous directorial outings, the plot is the least important aspect of the proceedings. It's there to move things along and provide a clothesline upon which the various comic situations can be hung. Thinking about it or pondering its coherence is not a good approach, because it doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact, things are so convoluted that a voiceover narrator is needed to keep audiences from becoming lost. And, for such a weak plot, there's too much of it. The movie runs nearly two hours, which is easily 20 to 30 minutes too long. The laugh quotient is down significantly during the final half-hour as the Farrellys make the mistake of concentrating a little too much on the story. (Viewers who leave early will miss a brief post-credits scene designed to reward those who stay in their seats.)

This is Carrey's second chance to play this kind of split personality (his previous opportunity was in The Mask). From a dramatic standpoint, he doesn't offer a masterful performance, but he gives us a good sense of both halves of his character, and develops Charlie into a likable guy (Hank is another story altogether). Unlike in some of Carrey's early movies, we get the sense that there's a real person here, and, since Charlie earns our sympathy, we're more willing to accept the preposterous plot than we might otherwise be inclined to. As has always been the case, physical comedy is Carrey's forte, and Me, Myself & Irene offers numerous opportunities to see him in action. Those who appreciated the scene in Liar Liar where he beat himself up will be in stitches during similar sequences in this movie.

As Charlie's love interest, Irene, Renee Zellweger is suitably sweet - but not much more. Perhaps it's because Carrey dominates every scene he's in, but Zellweger too often fades into the background, as if she's incapable of holding the camera's intention. She had no problem opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire - in fact, she stole the movie from him - but Carrey is a different matter. Someone with a more demonstrative personality might have done a better job. In the end, Irene only matters because she's the means of Charlie's salvation, not because she has any sort of individual identity.

My favorite casting choices are Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, and Jerod Mixon, who play Charlie's three grown sons. (How he came to raise them is a long story that I won't relate here. Rest assured, the movie tells all.) Their presence in the film represents an extension of the Right Guard TV commercials where a famous sports figure acts sophisticated. In this case, we have three very large black guys who are geniuses. It's a case of having a lot of fun with stereotypes - after all, men with these kinds of physiques belong on the football field, not going on a full scholarship to Yale or getting a 1430 SAT score on a bad day... It could be argued that the movie tries to gain a little too much mileage out of this single joke, but it's admittedly a good concept.

Those on the lookout for semen won't find any - that's one bodily fluid that doesn't make it to the screen this time. There is, however, plenty of urine, a rather unpleasant shot of chocolate ice cream being dispensed, a defecating dog, a cow that won't die, and an interesting conversation between Charlie and a dildo. There may not be as many jokes in Me, Myself & Irene as in the Farrellys' previous movies, but there's no evidence of an improvement in taste on the filmmakers' part and some of the laughs are just as big. It's just that a little more effort has gone into building Charlie's personality and developing his relationship with Irene.

Ultimately, Me, Myself & Irene is a comedy, and it works because it does its job of making viewers laugh. It is perhaps a slight notch below There's Something About Mary on the Farrelly entertainment scale, but it's a significant improvement over either Dumb and Dumber or Kingpin. The film is less successful as a romance, primarily because of the weakness in Irene's character. Those who are offended by vulgar material certainly won't embrace this movie, but fans of the Farrellys, Carrey, and humor in the worst possible taste will find plenty to enjoy.

Me, Myself & Irene (United States, 2000)

Run Time: 1:55
U.S. Release Date: 2000-06-23
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1