The Farrelly brothers couldn't have courted more controversy if they'd made a screwball comedy called Spaz. How could mental health lobbyists not be up in arms over a movie that tackles the sensitive subject of split personality disorder with funny voices, funny faces and the tagline ""From Gentle To Mental"?" Critics and fans, too, have been divided in the States over how much mileage is left in the brothers' trademark combo of crude, lewd gags and soft-hearted sentimentality.
At any rate, the problem doesn't lie with Jim Carrey, who couldn't have hoped for a better role for his return to comedy after The Truman Show and Man On The Moon. As Charlie, he takes the wide-eyed innocence of Truman Bur-bank to humiliating extremes, while the misanthropic Hank is an unexpectedly sophisticated caricature of macho idiocy.
Together, they're the best showcase for his physical comedy talents since The Mask. In his screen-hogging presence, most of the cast are simply bystanders, but Renée Zellweger, filling a role with Cameron Diaz's name written all over it, holds her own by being sassy rather than sappy, and Charlie's three jive-talking genius sons come to the rescue whenever the plot sags.
Whether you'll find it funny is easy to predict. If you think you're above laughing at swearing children, defecating on lawns and violence towards cows, then you're probably not even reading this review. Complaining that the humour is basic is like berating John Woo for having too many shootouts. But beyond the obvious sight gags, there's an undercurrent of sharp one-liners and clever character humour, referencing the likes of Airplane!, Richard Pryor and classic Steve Martin.
What keeps Me, Myself&Irene from attaining the heights (or is that lows?) of There's Something About Mary is the sense that, having concocted such a brilliant comic concept, the Farrellys don't quite know what to do with it. Their solution (as in Dumb And Dumber) is to cobble together a hokey crime plot with some cut-out bad guys, which was obviously such an afterthought that they haven't even bothered to explain exactly why Irene's ex wants her dead.
There's something to be said for this being the last time that either the Farrellys or Carrey tread such familiar ground, but a comedy with this much technical panache and sheer frequency of belly-laughs is not the work of talents on the wane. And where else could you find pathos and character development comfortably sharing a screen with a shot of a man with a chicken up his arse?
No surprises, as directors and star play to their strengths. The plot struggles to make it to the finish line, but Carrey is in his element and if you don't laugh out loud at least once you need your head examined.