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Dustin Putman

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Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
3 Stars

Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Cast: Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, Jerod Mixon, Michael Bowman, Traylor Howard, Richard Jenkins, Rob Moran.
2000 – 115 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, profanity, brief nudity, and sexual innuendo).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 22, 2000.

Writer-directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly have made a career out of increasingly upping the ante in their big-screen comedy ventures, going for broke with bawdy, salacious humor in order to do one thing, and one thing only: make the audience laugh. Where the Farrelly brothers have also excelled, however, is in their continuous creation of quirky stories and likable characters that they place the outrageousness around, so as to ground the films in at least a modicum of reality. Beginning with their first and, coincidentally, best and funniest picture to date, 1994's "Dumb and Dumber," and followed by 1996's "Kingpin" (their weakest film, but still ambitiously enjoyable) and 1998's funny and raucous, if overrated, smash hit, "There's Something About Mary," their latest endeavor is the utterly satisfying, charming, and predictably rib-tickling "Me, Myself & Irene."

Headlining the fine cast in his first return to a purely comic performance since 1997's "Liar, Liar," Jim Carrey stars as Charlie, a sweet-natured, yet meek and seemingly inconsequential, Rhode Island State Trooper whose marriage to an intelligent blonde (Traylor Howard) ended fifteen years ago when she struck up an unlikely romance with an African American midget limo driver and fellow MENSA member. Charlie is left to take care of his three sons whom he was left with, and who turn out to "have year-round sunburns," but he loves them unconditionally and trudges on with his life.

Switch forward to the present, one day, triggered by yet another case of citizens not taking his profession and authority seriously because of his understated personality, Charlie snaps and temporarily becomes Hank, his crude, despicable alter ego who is able to do the sorts of things Charlie would never do. Diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, Charlie is assigned to escort the beautiful Irene Waters (Renee Zellweger) back to her home state of New York following a wrongful arrest for fraud, granted that he take the medication for his now-fragile condition. Soon, Charlie and Irene are on the lam after they learn they are being stalked by two cops (Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins) who have been hired by Irene's crooked boyfriend to do away with her. To make matters worse, Charlie loses his medication and, without any control over it, frequently becomes the up-to-no-good Hank, who cares about very little but getting into Irene's pants.

If the plot of "Me, Myself & Irene" sounds slightly unfocused and more than a little implausible, that is okay because what Bobby and Peter Farrelly enjoy doing is creating a basic premise in which to design a line of crass jokes and unrestrained humor that is snappy and funny enough to withhold a two-hour movie. While not as purely comic as, say, "Dumb and Dumber" or "Kingpin," "Me, Myself & Irene" pays close attention to its eccentric three-way relationship between Charlie, Hank, and Irene, and amidst the raucous laughs unearths a genuinely sweet romance.

After two years of focusing on more dramatic work that has rightfully proven his wide acting chops (1998's "The Truman Show," 1999's "Man on the Moon"), Jim Carrey is in top comedic form as the lovable Charlie, as well as the unruly Hank. Acclaimed for his extreme range of facial expressions, Carrey garners many laughs simply from his transformations from himself to his alter ego. Best of all, Carrey is the type of performer who cherishes the audience, and wants nothing more than to entertain everyone; therefore, when even the slightest comic opportunity arises, Carrey runs with it.

A standout in 1996's "Jerry Maguire," followed by an unfortunate appearance in 1999's flat, unconvincing "The Bachelor," Renee Zellweger is her usual winning self as the title character of Irene. Carrey may be the bigger personality of the two, but their quick interplay is the source of what makes "Me, Myself & Irene" work so well, and Zellweger does excellent work as she reacts to Charlie's sweetness and Hank's lewd ways, as well as forms the center for the romance that ultimately forms between Charlie and herself.

Lest anyone forget "Me, Myself & Irene" is, indeed, a Farrelly comedy, the jokes come fairly fast and furious, and involve (but are not exclusive to) a stubborn cow that is the victim of a potential road kill incident, but refuses to die; an inappropriate sex scene involving a chicken; an interesting way for a grown man to get ahold of milk; the three robust, black stepsons of the very-much-Caucasian Charlie who just so happen to be 18-year-old prodigies; and the morning travails of Charlie, who attempts to urinate in a toilet despite his erection.

A road movie at heart, the film takes up the majority of its running time following Charlie/Hank and Irene traveling and hiding out from the cops, and it is this section that is the most thoroughly satisfying. Only the overly violent climax that is reminiscent of Carrey's self-fighting scene in "Liar, Liar" loses its humorous footing, but promptly recoups in time for the charismatic finale.

With a soundtrack complete with rerecordings of several Steely Dan classics (including my personal favorite, "Do It Again," which plays over the end credits), and a purposefully cheesy occasional narration in the vein of a Disney nature documentary from the 1950s, "Me, Myself & Irene" is one of the more enjoyable and lively motion pictures to come along this summer, and demonstrates how a successful comedy should be carried out.

©2000 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman