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Me, Myself and Irene

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Me, Myself and Irene

Starring: Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger
Director: Bobby Farrelly
Rated: R
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: June 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, James Gandolfini, Lin Shaye, Anthony Anderson, Richard Jenkins, Jerod Mixon, Mongo Brownlee, Traylor Howard

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

When I was in college back in the Jurassic Age, I roomed with a guy named Frank for three years, first in the dorms, then in the fraternity house. While guys all around us were giving their fraternity pins away and getting engaged, Frank and I somehow managed to go through the four years without even going steady. Almost every time we discussed this situation, Frank came up with the same explanation. "Gee, Harvey," he'd say (he came from Buffalo and people from there really talk that way), "I don't know. I get enough dates. I get the car washed, shine my shoes, and the girls I like keep winding up with the fellas who repair cars, who have grease under their nails. What is it with me?" I illuminated him. "You're just too nice, Frank. You're showing the women that you're a wee bit too desperate. Women go for the more down-to-earth types; not guys who treat them wrong, but people who just seem, well, just seem more manly." Try as he might, Frank never could get away with an act. He had to be himself. Last time I saw him he was married with three kids.

"Me, Myself and Irene" is comedy with a subtext that reads something like Frank's plight. Two guys are fighting for the same gal. One is Charlie, the nicest guy you can ever meet. Charlie, who is a proud member of the Rhode Island State Police, would do anything for you. In one situation in a supermarket in his home state, a young woman asks to get ahead of him in the line because she was in a real hurry. Charlie smiles and said, "Sure." No sooner does he withdraw from the line then the young mom calls out to her little ones who appear out of nowhere with carts filled to the sky with food. In another situation, Charlie opens the door of his modest suburban home to find his newspaper missing. "My wife is in the john," says his next door neighbor (using a more vulgar term for the lavatory since, after all this is a Farrelly Brothers film), "She'll be out soon and you can have the paper." Big smile from Charlie once again, but with a hint of a frown. Is this the kind of guy that can find a woman? Maybe. In fact Charlie was married for a brief time until the Mrs. (who, like Charlie, is white) took off with vertically challenged, African-American limo driver leaving her soon-to- be-ex husband with three babies who, in the words of one neighbor, looked suspiciously like kids who had a year-round suntan.

"Me, Myself and Irene" shows what happens when you're too nice for too long, setting up an intriguing gimmick. The trooper, pushed to the wall, finally splits into his gentle self (Charlie) and his temperamental self, Hank, a kind of Jekyll- Hyde transformation that sees the poor man changing unpredictably from the benign to the malicious. Both Charlie and Hank are played by the inimitable Jim Carrey and the woman wooed in turn by the two dispositions is the charming and beautiful Renee Zellweger in the title role of Irene. Since Irene is suspected of turning a dime on a corrupt corporate bigwig, Dick (Daniel Greene), who has quite a few members of the police force and judiciary in his pocket, Irene is on the run. The Farrellys put Irene in Charley's hands, turning "Me, Myself and Irene" into a road-and-buddy movie. Now Irene is courted by the congenial young trooper with a history of being dumped on, but just blink and she is more roughly pursued by the coarse and vulgar Hank, who believes that he has a better chance of winning fair maiden by his brand of behavior.

Political correctness is anathema to the Farrellys as the writer-director team with the input of scripter Michael Cerrone push the envelope once again to get laughs from the audience. In our era of ever-increasing ribald stand-up comedy (in the tradition of Richard Pryor and Chris Rock), the Farrellys believe that people are so accustomed to offensiveness that Doris Day comedies will hardly bring more than jeers from a movie constituency out for a good time. Stereotyping minorities of all sorts (majorities too) and shaking up the patronizing politeness by which the handicapped are often treated, Bobby and Peter Farrelly take aim at the vertically challenged and albinos and, in one brief moment, lesbians--while portraying African-Americans with all the stereotypical baggage with which we associate rap stars. We're treated to outrageous portrayals of Charlie's three sons (stepsons, actually), Shonte Jr. (Jerod Mixon), Jamaal (Anthony Anderson) and Lee Harvey (Mongo Brownlee), who are exceptionally smart and devoted to their white daddy-- which of course has nothing to do with their surplus use of the mofo word.

Some Farrelly Brothers' excesses include a unconventional use with which a chicken is put to use, and a similarly unorthodox use to which a rubber gadget is manipulated. There are plenty of pratfalls, as Charlie/Hank somersaults into a moving convertible like O.J. in a Hertz commercial, falls over a bridge into the rapids, and crashes his car into the shop of a local merchant who regularly treats Charlie like a fall-guy.

If "Me, Myself and Irene" were the first movie to push the envelope, i.e. if the Farrellys had not affronted their very- willing-to-be-offended audience earlier in their career, this would be the great summer comedy of the year. This time around, the demons of degradation pull back from the joyous anarchy that garnered for them awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and Golden Globe nominations in "There's Something About Mary." There's nothing in the current picture that quite matches up to the delightfully sophomoric comedy of that showcase for Cameron Diaz's talent as the so-called hair-gel scene, but there are lots of smaller gags that work their way into our funny bones--particularly one scene that shows what Charlie does when he gets up in the morning after spending the night with Irene, goes to the bathroom, and has repeatedly bad aim while standing over the toilet.

The chemistry between the multi-talented Jim Carrey and the now-feisty Renee Zellweger is palpable. We can't help wishing that the two will get together for good in the end (so to speak): despite the fraternity-house laughs that punctuate this film, the poignancy that informs the final scene is solid. Carrey does not rely any more on the facial contortions he exercised in "Mask" but changes almost imperceptibly from Charlie to Hank. There's just a different look in his eyes and his voice changes from fragile to menacing to let us know which guy we're looking at during each moment. Zellweger is perfect as the straight person, generally reacting with just the right change of expression each time Charlie turns into Hank, showing her disgust with the tough-guy attitude and warming up to the agreeable fellow she always knows is there.

So you see, Frank my old college buddy, things do work out, even for guys like you. The hard workers with the grease under their fingernails get together with the women who love them, and, well, Frank, you now have three grown kids and a wife that remains happily by your side to prove that nice guys like you and Charlie don't always finish last.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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