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
"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
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 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