"Me, Myself, and Irene" marks a return to first principles with respect to its sibling writer/directors, Bobby and Peter Farrelly, and its lead actor, funnyman Jim Carrey. On the one hand, Carrey has spent the past two years distinguishing himself with more dramatic fare, namely "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon", chasing after that elusive Best Actor Oscar. The Farrelly brothers, on the other hand, after directing a string of well-received comedies, including "Kingpin", misfired in 1999 with the lifeless coming-of-age story "Outside Providence". With "Me, Myself, and Irene", Jim Carrey is reunited with his "Dumb and Dumber" co-conspirators, and though this latest gross-out comedy is not as gut busting as the genre-defining "There's Something About Mary", there's still enough wildly-inappropriate and positively-absurd gags to warrant a look.
At the core of its story is the staple of your garden-variety romantic comedy, the love triangle-- the only problem is that two of the vertices happen to be the same person. Charlie, an upstanding member of the Rhode Island State Police, is the nicest guy you could ever meet, a trait that has caused him plenty of grief over the years. A perennial jellyfish, Charlie lets everyone walk all over him, and doesn't make the slightest effort to stand up for himself. His neighbor steals his newspaper, the townsfolk take advantage of him when he tries to enforce the law, and even kids mouth off at him. Even his domestic life hasn't emerged unscathed-- though he was once married, his wife ran off with an African-American limo driver after giving birth to triplets who were definitely not his (as one of Charlie's friends notes, they have a 'year-round tan').
However, lurking within the mild-mannered Charlie is Hank. The product of years of repressed rage, Hank is the polar opposite of Charlie, an alter ego who has no inhibitions and thrives on conflict. Unfortunately, the Hank side manifests itself out of the blue, which leads to a startling transformation and even more shocking behavior. Fortunately, the doctors are able to diagnose Charlie as having a multiple personality disorder (incorrectly referred to as schizophrenia in the film, which is a completely different disease), and Charlie is put on medication to control his symptoms.
Enter the love interest... Irene (Renee Zellweger of "Jerry Maguire"), who blows into town and is promptly arrested on an outstanding warrant from upstate New York. Charlie's boss (Robert Forster of "Jackie Brown") has Charlie escort the young lady back to New York to face her arrest warrant, which kicks off an extended road trip. Unfortunately, little does Charlie realize that Irene is a potential witness in an investigation of Environmental Protection Act violations, in which the local sheriff (Chris Cooper of "American Beauty") is involved, and is using the outstanding warrant to 'silence' her.
Fortunately, Irene is able to escape before she is 'silenced', and she turns to the only person she can trust... Charlie. Unfortunately, while outrunning the local law enforcement, Charlie forgets his medication, and the Hank personality resurfaces. With the sheriff's department and the EPA on their tail, there could be no worse time for Hank to show himself. Even more distressing is that both Charlie and Hank fall for Irene, and the resulting conflict between the two sides of Charlie's personality has some hilarious (not to mention painfully embarrassing) results.
Like "There's Something About Mary", toilet humor and potty-mouth dialogue is in abundance. But unlike the numerous Mary-wannabes (such as last year's "American Pie" or this year's "Whatever It Takes"), the Farrelly brothers' gift for guffaws shines through. Despite politically incorrect material of questionable taste which steps over every line imaginable, "Me, Myself, and Irene" is undeniably funny. Summer audiences will be abuzz over the film's keynote scenes, such as the 'got milk?' gag and an innovative use for chicken.
Part of the reason is Carrey's rubber-faced antics, which work in favor of the plot's high concept. From the sheer physicality of his portrayal of severe cotton-mouth to the slapstick consequences of being drop-kicked in the face, to his contrasting characterizations of Charlie and Hank, Carrey is the glue that holds the comic sequences together, mixing pathos and bathos by playing a lovable character who you sympathize with yet cannot help but laugh at. Though Carrey has strayed from his trademark clowning around in the past couple of years, it is evident in this latest offering that he hasn't lost the ability to please audiences with his blend of physical humor and exaggeration.
Also helping in the proceedings is Zellweger, who plays straight man to Charlie/Hank. Though she is exasperated by the instability exhibited by her savior, it is evident that chemistry is brewing between Irene and Charlie, and she credibly handles the gradual thawing that her character undergoes. Jerod Mixon, Anthony Anderson ("Romeo Must Die"), and Mongo Brownlee also deliver memorable turns as Charlie's three sons who mix up the lexicon of gangsta rap and MENSA-level exposition in their everyday vernacular. Finally, newcomer Michael Bowman is surprisingly effective as a hapless albino who crosses paths with Charlie and Irene.
"Me, Myself, and Irene" certainly isn't a realistic portrayal of the truly baffling mental affliction of multiple personality disorder, and it certainly won't win any awards for subtlety. However, if you are looking for a good laugh, and you lean heavily towards the "South Park" camp, then make a date with "Me, Myself, and Irene".