[Written for Film.com]
Of course the Farrelly brothers would make a split personality movie. It’s autobiographical: these filmmaking provocateurs are divided between sweet and sour, between the romance of classic screwball comedy and Mad magazine on acid.
So we get Me, Myself & Irene, a comedy about a Rhode Island cop who suffers from split personality disorder. In the gratifyingly wacky opening minutes of the film we meet Charlie (Jim Carrey), a nice guy stretched thin over thirty years of being a doormat. In a sequence that deliberately tramples taboos, Charlie melts down (in a line in a supermarket—perfect) and mutates into Hank, a belligerent jerk with no social boundaries.
For a while Me, Myself & Irene sets itself up as a looser take on Fight Club: what happens when our culture’s smothering niceness drives an ordinary person past the breaking point? This is quickly left behind, however, because there are jokes about roadkill cows and albinos and breast-feeding to be made. One sequence logically builds to a bit of dialogue that may be the Farrellys’ signature line, their “To be or not to be,” if you will: “Will somebody get this goddamn chicken out of my ass, please?” The reference is not metaphorical.
The movie flounders around in all directions (and the end credits show glimpses of entire scenes cut out, which implies even more floundering), without the straight-ahead romantic line of There’s Something About Mary to fall back on. The weak plot has Charlie, now under medication to keep Hank at bay, escorting a suspect (Renée Zellweger) to another state. Naturally Charlie loses his medication and keeps flip-flopping between steady Charlie and lustful, offensive Hank. When this is funny, it’s very funny, with the running gag of Charlie’s three sons (who happen to be black, huge, and members of Mensa) particularly amusing. Carrey’s intensity, which has sometimes been downright frightening in the past, finds its natural outlet in Hank, whose quick temper and weird locutions (“I’m not here to twist your niblets”) are tailor made for Carrey’s stark delivery. (He introduces the bad alter ego by saying, “Hank Evans—for leetle girls,” which made me laugh.) Carrey also does some amazing physical work, especially a scene in which Hank drags Charlie into a car—thus his body fights against itself.
Carrey is basically the whole show; good people such as Chris Cooper and Robert Forster are in the movie, but I don’t know why. That everyday quality Zellweger has—of looking not so much like a movie star but more like somebody’s sort of cute sister—works well against Carrey’s wild attack, although their real-life romance does not manifest itself on the screen.
The final scene of the film has the classical rhythms, the charming texture, and peppy soundtrack of a traditional romantic comedy. The Farrellys mean it, too; there’s no irony there. They want that kind of ending, but they haven’t earned it. It’s their divided personality again: the endless rectal jokes sit uneasily with their sunnier messages. Maybe I’ve just missed my medication, but the combination doesn’t really work.