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Me, Myself, and Irene (2000)



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The comedy of the Farrelly Brothers has always been in bad taste, but it's never been so abrasive and mean-spirited. The Farrellys made this film between There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal, which is perplexing, to say the least. Both of those films evoke humor from sympathy. The characters don't know they are in a comedy, and the plethora of body function gags are (more or less) redeemed by the fact that the characters aren't being crude on purpose. (No, not even Hal.)

But the comedy of Me, Myself, and Irene is all based on deliberate vengeance. It's a Jekyll and Hyde story about a nice guy named Charlie (Jim Carrey) that lets himself get pushed around until finally he spawns an alternate personality -- Hank -- that stands up for himself. The movie pretty much exclusively consists of Charlie getting pushed around and Hank taking revenge. Hank's revenge is certainly creative, but it's never funny. For all we feel for Charlie in the first ten minutes, the first appearance of Hank immediately reverses our sympathies.

There is only about two minutes' worth of the film that gets anywhere near amusing, and that's when Carrey's two personalities come to a head in the final scenes. Even so, memories of All of Me and Steve Martins' vastly superior performance of a duel with oneself overshadow it.

As if being unfunny weren't offensive enough in itself, this is easily the Farrellys' crudest film to date. No line of bad taste remains uncrossed. There's Something About Mary was in terrible taste, but it was funny. Me, Myself, and Irene is simply a disgusting assault on the senses. Sometimes scenes of bad taste aren't even presented as humor: they're just there, as if bad taste is inherently a comic virtue.

After the ordeal of this movie was over, I reflected on the sheer number of characters in Farrelly Brothers' comedies that I like. They have a gift, unused here, for creating truly sympathetic characters. But not is Charlie/Hank fundamentally unlikeable, the supporting characters fall flat as well. Renee Zellweger's character never emerges as a full blooded individual but simply lingers around and reacts to Carrey as long as the plot requires her to. No one else even registers on the radar. These characters could all have blown up in a fiery explosion at the end, and it wouldn't have mattered to me. What went wrong? Whatever it was, I am thankful the Farrellys got back on track with Shallow Hal, and I can only hope the lesson of this film is never forgotten.