Me, Myself And Irene

“Is that another chicken joke?” Not since Joanne Worley bellowed that line on “Laugh-In” has fowl been so chic. After roosting with the fine feathered friends of “Chicken Run” for an hour-and-a-half, you would assume that you’ve been subjected to every chicken joke and pun imaginable.

You would be wrong.

memyselfireneThe filmmakers behind “Me, Myself & Irene” do something with a chicken you don’t normally see in a movie, at least this side of the Mexican border. It starts with a bet about a chicken egg and its ability not to break under tight conditions. It ends with one of the most outrageous sight gags I have seen since Cameron Diaz used Ben Stiller’s man mousse as hair gel in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Outrageous sight gags are the calling card of directors/writers Bobby & Peter Farrelly, whose enjoyment of humiliating their stars actually pays off for the audience. Their track record speaks for itself: Jeff Daniel’s massive dump in “Dumber & Dumber,”; Woody Harrelson downing bull sperm instead of milk in “Kingpin,”; the little-dab-will-do-you hair gel scene in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Signature scenes that demand you pay attention, scenes that in less talented hands would be offensive and immoral. Instead, The Farrelly brothers create endearing characters who just happen to become embroiled in outrageous situations. Because the characters are written with affection and hope, we forgive their involvement. When Daniel’s ends up on the can for what seems like an eternity, we’re not laughing at his sorry state, but because most of us have been there.

The Farrelly brothers put our lives under a microscope, amplifying them into comic proportions. They always manage to come up with an oddball gallery of characters, yet they are not so extreme they become unapproachable. It’s the filmmaker’s ability (along with co-writer Mike Cerrone) to balance the madness with some degree of honesty and heart that makes their films so enjoyable and accessible.

“Me, Myself & Irene” features a winning performance from Jim Carrey, who plays Rhode Island patrol officer Charlie Bailygates, a 17-year veteran whose stressed-out life has caused his personality to split in two. Carrey is the Farrelly’s best weapon, a man-child who can bring out the innocence in the sweet character Charlie, and the nasty disposition of the mean-spirited alter-ego Hank.

Those concerned about the film’s attempt to make light of a serious subject needn’t be. This isn’t that film. Despite the film’s continual stream of jokes and sight gags, Charlie’s condition isn’t one of them. The person he becomes is, and Hank is such an exaggeration it’s hard to take him seriously.

As Charlie, Carrey once again shows us his loveable, puppy dog persona. Charlie is so good natured that he never accepts the fact that his three African-American sons are actually the by- product of his wife’s affair. Instead, he raises them as his own, creating a family unit that is built on love and respect. His relationship with the three Mensa smart sons is one of the film’s best assets.

It takes a real woman to tame two Carrey’s, and Renee Zellweger is more than up for the challenge. The wispy star of “Jerry Maguire” is quite engaging as Irene Waters, a woman on the run who turns to Charlie/Hank for help. Just getting through a scene with Carrey without breaking up is tough, yet Zellweger provides much more. She manages to make us care about her plight and relationship with the dynamic duo.

The plot is feather thin, but it only serves as a framework to allow Carrey to strut his stuff. The fun comes watching the cast execute the rapid-fire screenplay with total conviction. For any of this to work, the stars have to connect with the material, and they do. When Charlie and Irene come across an injured cow in the middle of the road, their attempts to put it out of its misery are so extreme that all the humor would be lost if they didn’t believe in the moment.

The Farrelly’s are noted for their strong casts, and “Me, Myself & Irene” is no different. Robert Forster shows concern as Charlie’s supervisor, and Chris Cooper gets the chance to lighten up as a police lieutenant whose desperation suggests something more sinister. Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee and Jerod Mixon are hysterical as Charlie’s sons, while Michael Bowman gets the Chris Elliott role of an albino waiter with a secret past.

The actors put a lot of faith in the Farrelly brothers, who have shown time and time again they know what is funny. Their twisted take on everyday life is refreshing and edgy, and I like that. I like humor that takes chances, that pushes the politically correct envelope a little further. The Farrelly brothers put all of this on the screen with the same conviction as their actors. They have to. The second they flinch or apologize the illusion is ruined and the emperor has no clothes.

There’s no naked ambition in the film’s technical credits. They’re the best, from Mark Irwin’s nicely framed cinematography, to Peter Yorn and Lee Scott’s snappy scored lined wall to wall with the Farrelly’s usual eclectic collection of tunes.

The Farrelly’s make no apologies with “Me, Myself & Irene.” From the first frame, they pull out all the stops. It’s a hard to pace to maintain, and even though the film does drag a little, it more than redeems itself with some of the funniest, nastiest jokes on screen this year. The hens in “Chicken Run” were worried about being made into pies. After seeing what happens to one of their own in “Me, Myself & Irene,” I’m sure becoming a pie is the least of their worries.


Two Carrey’s for the price of one


Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Robert Forster, Chris Cooper, Michael Bowman, Richard Jenkins in a film directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly. Rated R. 116 Minutes.


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