The Farrelly brothers are still the most liberating comic minds in the movies today. They create this guilt-free universe in which it's okay to laugh about subjects that are otherwise held prisoner by the stipulations of political correctness (they take the "isms" out of sex and race). They can even spin flat-out, unrepentant nastiness into pure comedy, like the scene in their new film, Me, Myself and Irene, in which Jim Carrey holds a nine-year-old girl's head underwater in a public fountain. When he pulls her out, the close-up of her blinking, sputtering face ("I'm gonna tell my Dad on you!") was the first of at least a half a dozen moments that had me doubled over.
If you go to a Farrelly brothers movie expecting anything more than a collection of taboo-busting comic set pieces, you're barking up the wrong tree. Let's face it, these guys are lousy storytellers and the only way their films maintain any semblance of forward momentum is by stringing together about 30 or 40 catchy pop tunes on the soundtrack (count the music credits, I kid you not). In this case they've even employed a Dukes of Hazzard-style narrator and a plot that has something to do with the Environmental Protection Agency and groundskeeping at a golf and country club. The expository scenes are a waste of time and energy, as they are in most comedies, but here they have a particularly deadening effect. Chris Cooper and Robert Forster seem to be acting with some kind of anti-comedy force field around them. Nothing funny ever occurs when they walk into a scene.
Me, Myself and Irene is more ragged and off-the-cuff than the more precise comedy of There's Something About Mary, and this looser approach works just fine with Jim Carrey's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink performance. He's playing another of the Farrelly's emasculated men: a State policeman who sweetly accepts that his wife (Traylor Howard) ran off with their wedding limo driver, until the indignities pile up (his three sons are all black... hmmm), and his personality splits from meek Charlie to take-no-prisoners tough guy, Hank. Carrey is basically doing a variation on his performance in The Mask, only this time, his comedy has an even better foil in Renee Zellweger. She deliberately plays down her sex appeal and makes a terrific performance out of reacting to Hank's outbursts with sneering disgust, polite indulgence, or even maternal protectiveness ("He can't help it! He's schizo!"). She's the perfect sulking counterpoint to Carrey's manic energy.