Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Me, Myself & Irene

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Charlie Baileygates is a good man and a good cop, engaged to the prettiest girl in town. But even as he carries her over the threshold, things begin to go wrong. Me, Myself & Irene becomes a fractured fable on the ills of repression. Dumped by his new bride and humiliated over the brink of insanity, Charlie is all but literally beside himself as his alter ego, "Hank," takes charge, the Hyde to Charlie’s Jekyll. Jim Carrey plays the pair like Jerry Lewis graced with Chaplin’s slapstick genius, with Hank as a zanily sadistic send-up of Dirty Harry. There’s a new sheriff in town.

So much for "me" and "myself," but what about Irene? She’s hauled into Charlie’s station under arrest. Renée Zellweger’s Irene is a streetwise damsel in distress, on the lam from the long arm of corrupt New York state lawmen. Charlie’s commanding officer gives him the nuisance job of extraditing her back into their clutches and, of course, romance ensues. With Charlie and Hank, Irene makes an overwhelmed third in an absurdly collapsed love triangle.

With Me, Myself & Irene, directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly return to a genre they created with their 1998 hit, There’s Something About Mary: a kind of bastard child of screwball romantic comedy and a more permissive Animal House. But screwball seems the recessive gene, and the lowest common denominator survives: adolescent slapstick romance. Take one "hero" (a loser with a heart of gold), add a love interest (smart, self-sufficient yet vulnerable), a villain (a comic take on the gothic, moustache-twisting kind), spice to tastelessness with R-rated "toilet humor" and serve while hot (over $170 million in box office sales for Mary).

But there’s something about Irene, something intelligent and human beneath the vulgarity. The Farrellys present us with geniuses who could be homecoming queens or hip hoppers, challenging our prejudices. They provoke us with a midget, a schizophrenic and an albino, challenging us to accept them as what they are – human beings, both good and bad, not freaks. And their humor concerns bathroom issues, but isn’t the bathroom the seat of true democracy where everyone sits on the throne?

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