10 years ago, the Farrelly Brothers once again unleashed Jim Carrey upon the comedy-viewing public, and while it went onto make nearly $100 million domestically, I was never a big fan of it. It had its share of laughs, and I know some major fans of the whole thing, but it always seemed so awkwardly aggressive to me that I never once thought to seek it out ever again.
Until now. Until this project. And how did the viewing go? Did I lower my humor blockade to include a gleeful overindulgence in the word “motherfucker,” rape jokes and chicken-up-the-ass sight gags? Well, I’d like to think so. I have zero problems with tasteless humor — I often welcome it — but I demand that the tasteless jokes actually be funny, as simply being tasteless does not a joke make.
I’m stalling. Why? Because…
Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?
Worse. In fact, I now kind of hate the movie, and find it a major misstep in the canon of the Farrelly Brothers, who have definitely brought modern audiences some of the biggest laughs of the last 20 years. In 2000, it was their follow-up to “There’s Something About Mary,” and at the time it simply seemed like overblown expectations, which is in many ways my own fault, that dragged me into thinking of it as a two-star movie. Nothing can hurt a movie more than too much buzz and anticipation. However, 10 years later, it seems desperate to go for a laugh, any laugh, that they were so busy trying to top themselves that they forgot to make a good movie. There’s nobody to relate to, the crime plot feels like an afterthought, it’s far too long and the jokes are tasteless without being funny.
It rarely happens with me, but this went from a two-star film to a one-star film. And it kind of hurts to say that. I think the Farrelly Brothers are something special, and when they get it right, they make wonderfully sympathetic, sweet, relatable and, yes, outratgeously gutbusting comedies. “Dumb & Dumber” still works for me. “Fever Pitch” is terribly underrated. I’m still amazed that “Kingpin” was allowed to be made within the studio system, and am even more amazed that they got it past the censors and came out with a PG-13 rating despite jokes about bull semen, Amish sodomy and old-lady cunnilingus. Even the critically drubbed “Shallow Hal” and “Stuck To You” work for me in various ways, even if both are indicative of the brothers losing some of the bite that defined their earlier work.
*sigh* But “Me, Myself & Irene” is an ugly, unfunny, confused film that wastes a great cast and a promising conceit to deliver ugly, unfunny and confused jokes about albinos, dog poop and dwarves. The script feels like a first draft, and the film seems like a first cut. Somebody needed to tell the Farrelly Brothers when to stop, but when one’s previous movie is the blockbuster “There’s Something About Mary,” which is now considered one of the 50 funniest movies of all time, I guess everybody is a yes man. (That’s not a Jim Carrey-related joke. I really, truly hate yes men in Hollywood.)
What’s Better About The Film?
- Renée Zellweger still looked like a normal human being, not the cartoon character she is now. My wife am I came to the decision that, between this and “Chicago” (2002), it was the weight gain and critical acclaim for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) that turned her into whatever the hell she is now, Oscar for “Cold Mountain” be damned. She’s not spectacular in this film or anything, but it reminded me that she’s capable of wonderful, non-“Leatherheads” work, such as “A Price Above Rubies” (1998), “One True Thing” (1998) and “Down With Love” (2003). Unfortunately, none of those were box office hits, so what the hell do I know?
- Despite being more sensitive to animal rights now than when I was 17, I am happy to report that I now find the Dying Cow Sequence in the film’s first third far funnier than I ever expected. Maybe I’m less inclined to feel sorry for a cow (those dumb ugly FUCKS), but watching Carrey try his damnedest to put down a cow that will…just…not…die got me in a way that the rest of the movie did not.
- Okay, I had three other big laughs:
1. “Get your cock out of my Chrysler, you son-of-a-bitch!”
2. In the fight sequence on the train when Carrey started scratching the thug like a cat.
3. The breast-feeding, which is so unfunny that it sort of became funny again.
- At the time of the film’s release, I wasn’t that familiar with the soundtrack, which consists of a few original tracks and a whole bunch of Steely Dan covers. But soon after, my wife (who was just a good friend at the time) made me aware of the album’s pleasures. This lead to our mutual love of Ellis Paul, whose track “The World Ain’t Slowing Down” is used several times in the film and is even adapted into the film’s score. And I’d like to think that the song and the Ellis Paul album I bought for her subsequently helped us reach where we are now. (…dawwwwwwww, I’m a softy…)
What’s Worse About The Film?
- I understand the need to stack the deck against Carrey’s character Charlie in leading up to his personality split between Charlie and Hank, but the entire first 20 minutes of could have been cut. It’s entirely too much, and it leads to the film running nearly two hours. I’ve said this in the past and still believe it: unless you have a very very good reason, comedies shouldn’t run more than 105 minutes. The entire prologue feels separated from the rest of the story, and while the presence of Charlie’s three brilliant but foul-mouthed African-American sons leads to a few chuckles, I would have dropped them in the writing stages. It’s just too much for too little.
- Just like my problems with “Big Momma’s House” three weeks ago, the crime story in “Me, Myself & Irene” simply doesn’t work. “Dumb & Dumber” worked its crime plot by pushing it way back into the background and treating it like a joke, and “Mary” is their classic because it kept the story entirely character-based with no dumbass side crap. Here, they give it entirely too much seriousness, and what felt like a nuisance ten years ago now feels like a major flaw that almost destroys the movie on its own.
- Carrey works his butt off to play both Charlie and Hank, and when the movie gets totally “All of Me” in its final third, his physical comedy is wild, unhinged and exquisite as the two personalities battle for control of the body. But I could not stand Carrey’s Hank voice. It’s completely unbearable, and I think it’s a miscalculation on his part. Yes, we as an audience are supposed to consider Hank a boorish and dangerous person, but the voice is what turns the character from being an irritation into being a full-blown villain. And I don’t think that works one lick. It makes it stop being funny.
- I simply don’t get the narration. It’s lazy as far as I’m concerned.
- The whole “plastic surgery chin” gag, which lasts for almost the entire second half of the film, is a lot of waiting for a lame, underwhelming payoff. It seems that the word of the day is “desperate.”
What Did I Learn From This Experience?
The Farrelly Brothers-produced “Say It Isn’t So” is funnier than this. Seriously. The incest comedy with Chris Klein and Heather Graham. Why? Two words: Richard Jenkins. Comparing his two performances in both films shows the difference between thankless character acting and true, go-for-broke bizarreness.