Perhaps with no other movie is a review more beside the point than with "Me, Myself and Irene," the new how-low-can-you-go comedy from the Farrelly brothers starring Jim Carrey.
Those filmgoers who helped make the Farrellys billionaires by flocking to "Dumb and Dumber," "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary" wouldn't dare miss the team's latest attempt to out gross-out themselves. Those who can do without a brand of comedy that relies on shocking language, sight gags and stereotypes for its laughs will choose to stay home. End of story.
But attention must be paid, so here goes: "Me, Myself and Irene" contains some inspired work by Carrey in a role as a state trooper with multiple personality disorder. A gifted physical comedian, Carrey turns in a terrific performance as the mild-mannered Charlie - a nice guy with all of Carrey's native appeal - and Hank, a cross between Dirty Harry and all three Stooges.
There are moments when he's hilariously funny, especially as Hank, whose sleazy Lothario lines, delivered in a Clint Eastwood rasp, continually raise the ante for cliched come-ons ("Just because I rock doesn't mean I'm made of stone").
But despite Carrey's appeal, as well as a fight sequence with himself whose choreography rivals Ed Norton's in "Fight Club," "Me, Myself and Irene" isn't as approachable as "There's Something About Mary," which had as many filthy jokes but managed to be likable, thanks in large part to its game cast and underlying warmth.
The game of outdoing yourself in offensive humor is ultimately no-win. At some point the foul language, lascivious sight gags, references to sex toys, violence against animals and cruelty toward children simply ceases to be funny. (Nowhere is this more evident than in "Me, Myself and Irene's" centerpiece gag involving Charlie's attempts to kill a cow.)
The Farrellys use their usual bag of disarming tricks to charm their audience. They have a wicked talent for soundtracks, and this one is dominated by choice covers of Steely Dan songs, as well as some tasty pop ditties from XTC. But their other strategy - of poking fun at marginalized groups, then later insisting that they're making fun of us for laughing - is wearing thin. Here, they trot out an African-American midget, an albino waiter and three African-American brothers who talk about quantum physics in profane homeboy patois, the joke apparently being that three young black men couldn't possibly be that smart.
The filmmakers would insist that they're actually ridiculing the audience's assumptions, but they get the cheap laugh either way. It's a nasty case of having your cake and eating it - which, come to think of it, sounds suspiciously like a scene from a Farrelly brothers movie.
'Me, Myself and Irene'
Starring Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly
Released by 20th Century Fox
Running time 117 minutes
Rated R (sexual content, crude humor, strong language and some violence)
Sun score *1/2