Me, Myself & Irene

The late Kevyn Aucoin, a few years back, transformed a bunch of modern-day actresses into classic-movie actresses and published the makeover photos in two books. Jim Carrey could publish a book like that, too, but he wouldn’t need makeup — the entire book could chronicle his thousand facial expressions. In Me, Myself & Irene, there’s a brilliant moment in which Carrey, as a mild-mannered Rhode Island highway motorcycle cop, is pushed over the edge and morphs from nice-guy Charlie to another, more aggressive personality, named Hank. The camera sits and watches Carrey as he twitches and bends his features like so much Silly Putty. Who needs computer effects when you have Jim Carrey? He does more amazing things from the neck up than most people can do with an entire FX crew.

Me, Myself & Irene is another gleefully offensive comedy from Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the Rhode Island brothers whose There’s Something About Mary owned the summer of 1998 and was the youngest movie to earn a spot on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list. Their new movie, for some people, may suffer in comparison, and there aren’t any scenes that made me laugh as long and hard as the smackdown between Ben Stiller and Warren. But MM&I is still consistently filthy and funny, with the Farrellys’ usual attention to disability that will surely be misread as insensitivity to disability. The Farrelly universe is populated by people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and mental/physical problems, and we laugh at them not because they’re different but because they’re human — they’re as screwed up as anyone else.

Like Mary, MM&I has a lengthy opening act setting up the story. Some reviews will inevitably blow some of the surprises for you, so I’ll let you discover for yourself how the very white Charlie winds up with three black sons who grow up to be gargantuan high-school kids with gargantuan IQs to match. (The trio of sons are played by Anthony Anderson, Jerod Mixon, and Mongo Brownlee. Remember those names — you’ll probably be hearing them a lot. These guys steal the movie, which isn’t easy considering the star.) After Charlie snaps and becomes the mean, psychotic Hank (which is multiple-personality disorder, not schizophrenia, contrary to the movie’s definition), he’s assigned to deliver a criminal named Irene (Renee Zellweger) from Rhode Island to upstate New York. Problem is, both Charlie and Hank fall in love with Irene along the way.

Along the way, there are also jokes involving … well, I originally listed a few in here, but (A) that would be giving away the jokes, and (B) most of them are fairly unprintable. The Farrellys’ comedy depends a lot on the shock value of raunchy sight gags; earlier audiences got more of a bang out of the hair-gel scene in Mary than later viewers did, after it became the talk of the summer. I don’t know what will be the water-cooler outrage in MM&I, though a couple of scenes involving animals may qualify; so might the morning-after scene between Charlie and Irene, which gives us the classic line “I didn’t put it up there — you did!”

Renee Zellweger re-establishes herself here as a woman to watch; like Cameron Diaz in Mary, she’s a good sport and a note of class amid boy’s-club hijinks. But it’s really Carrey’s show, as any Carrey movie has to be. Whether he’s the hapless Charlie or the Eastwood-esque Hank, Carrey keeps us connected to his lowest desires and highest hopes; this is actually a fairly detailed and sensitive portrait of mental disability, done in a low-comedy context. At one point Charlie bursts into tears, and you’re torn between feeling sorry for him and laughing at the ridiculous whistling noise coming from his broken nose. Carrey and the Farrellys specialize in that kind of split-personality scene, where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. They also tell you, What the hell, you might as well laugh.

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