Me, Myself, & Irene
review by Gregory Avery, 23 June 2000

Films can be bad for many reasons, but they generally tend to fall into three categories: films which are bad because their makers followed some particularly loony vision which causes them to fly right off the rails, with attendant results (recent example: Battlefield Earth); movies which are bad because they end up boring the crap out of you (fill in your own title-of-choice, here); or, films which are bad yet leave you in a particularly nettlesome, even resentful, mood for hours, days, even weeks afterwards. Me, Myself and Irene, unfortunately, falls in this latter category.

I say "unfortunately" because, back when they made Dumb and Dumber, in 1994, Peter and Bobby Farrelly reveled in vulgar humor but ended up making a comedy that was essentially good-natured and harmless: no jokes were made at anyone's expense, and the filmmakers knew when not to press their luck.  Now, with the success of There's Something About Mary, they have fashioned themselves as shock-provocateurs, and feel compelled to top anything seen in their previous movie. And they succeed: urine flies, excrement drops, body parts are brazenly displayed, and orifices are violated with objects both inanimate and animate (Note To Parents: Leave the kiddies home).

But we are also asked to laugh at a dog taking a copious dump on-camera, a cow being shot several times at point-blank range, and a little girl being drowned in a fountain. By the time one of the main characters loses a thumb, and you get the queasy feeling that we are supposed to react to this with uproarious laughter, the film has become a very unpleasant experience.

Narrated by Rex Allen, Jr, in the same folksy manner he used in the Walt Disney True Life Adventures (and exactly why the Farrellys chose to use this in the film, I don't know), the story, or what there is of it (the filmmakers' narrative skills also seem to be deteriorating), concerns Charlie Baileygates (Jim Carrey), a Rhode Island state trouper encharged with the duty of  transporting Irene (Renée Zellweger) to face charges in another jurisdiction. What Irene doesn't know is that Charlie, who was both thoroughly humiliated and demoralized over the circumstances under which his ex-wife left him, has developed a second personality that emerges whenever he is faced with confrontation -- Hank, who has absolutely no problem settling scores with either adults, children, or vending machines.

The only reason Zellweger is cast in the film is so that we could be treated to the sight of a pretty young actress snarling at everyone and everything around her all the time. (Talented as she may  be, "withering putdown" and "acid wit" are not exactly in her repertory.) She and Chris Cooper, who plays a bad guy chasing after Irene, have the most terrible expressions on their face throughout the movie, like the huge cooked fish that is served to Noel Coward during a scene in the movie Boom (Coward took one look at it and said, "What is this horror from the deep? It has the most dreadful expression on its face").

Jim Carrey, who, over the last six years, has turned into one of the most prolific and inspired performers working today, has slowed down a bit from the manic flights he took in earlier films such as Liar, Liar, and when he gets the chance to do something funny, he does so, and does so well (One scene indicates that he would have been a perfect choice to play Mason Verger in the film version of Thomas Harris' Hannibal). But as soon as he starts developing some sort of characterization as Charlie, he has to switch to playing Hank, and starts trying to develop some sort of characterization for him. The result is two performances that don't seem fully realized, either separately or as one entity: Charlie comes across as too bland, while Hank, his voice register tucked down into a Dirty Harry Callahan-like range, becomes monotonous as he levels his gaze and mutters one oh-that's-awful piece of dialogue after another.

But the most troubling thing about the film is its pervasive air of mean-spiritedness (it's probably why Zellweger and Cooper look so distressed). A couple of sympathetic scenes between Charlie and Irene have been included, but they come across as monstrously insincere, because you know that the characters are simply being set up for some new outrage that is lurking just around the corner to slap them down; it doesn't matter whether we feel anything towards them or not. The end effect is much like what one feels after seeing the most assaulting advertisements or music videos, which hit you with everything they got in a very short period of time. Perhaps the Farrellys have come to believe that audiences are now mistaking sadism for humor, or that they've become so insensitive that this is the only way they can break through and get a reaction out of anyone, anymore. Perhaps, until the audience finally says enough, already.

Directed by:
Bobby Farrelly
Peter Farrelly

Jim Carrey
Renée Zellweger
Chris Cooper
Robert Forster

Written by:
Mike Cerrone
Bobby Farrelly
Peter Farrelly




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