Judge Norman Short, our resident expert in farm livin', hands down judgment on the latest film from the Brothers Farrelly and their merry prankster, Jim Carrey. I ask you: what kind of twisted schmo makes fun of albinos and midgets in the same movie? Are there no morals left in Hollywood today? I'll bet the Scooby Doo Gang could find them again.
From gentle to mental.
No one who knows the Farrelly brothers walks into one of their films expecting an erudite, sensitive portrayal of high drama. You know that it will be comedy in which bad taste is perhaps the point. Me, Myself and Irene is the latest Farrelly romp starring Jim Carrey. While not up to the laugh quotient of their previous film Dumb and Dumber, it tickled me just enough to get over some actually painful moments. Fox has released the film on DVD with terrific picture and sound, along with a wealth of extras. If bad taste is your taste, you'll be happy with this outstanding disc.
Facts of the Case
Charlie Baileygates is a nice guy. He's too nice for his own good, and everyone walks all over him, even his wife who rather obviously cheated on him and left him for a diminutive black genius. But Charlie takes it all in stride, raising kids that somehow don't seem to be his and smiling through abuse. One day the years of repressed anger lets itself out suddenly in the form of Hank, a Dirty Harry talkin', mean sumbitch. The doctors determine that Charlie suffers from "advanced delusionary schizophrenia with involuntary narcissistic rage" but as long as he takes his pills he will be fine. His next assignment involves transporting a woman accused of a hit and run accident to New York. But Irene (Renée Zellweger) is innocent and is being brought back because of what she may know about a scam involving police, country clubs, and organized crime, and she runs to Charlie for rescue. Unfortunately Charlie leaves his pills behind in the rush, and she must deal with both Charlie and Hank as they try to evade both police and killers.
Jim Carrey is again over the top with a vengeance, and displays his mastery of physical comedy. He seamlessly shifts back and forth from the likable Charlie and the unlikable Hank at a moment's notice. Also praiseworthy are the performances of the three children, who have grown up to be geniuses with a penchant for cursing. One of their scenes involving learning to fly a helicopter is one of the real gems of the film.
The film moves through a convoluted plot with various set pieces that will either make you laugh or groan depending on your degree of intestinal fortitude. Carrey's repeated attempts to mercy kill a cow in the road left me in stitches, while the dildo and chocolate ice cream scenes left me wishing they hadn't gone there.
This is a more action-oriented film than the Farrelly brothers typically make, with several car chases and crashes. While the Farrellys admit this isn't a strong suit of theirs, I welcomed those scenes that made for a quicker pace for the film. I especially welcomed this more familiar terrain after some painful moments that not only abandon political correctness but taste as well.
Fox has done a great job on the DVD presentation, with a THX-approved transfer and soundtrack that is first rate in all respects. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is spotless, with accurate color rendition throughout and virtually no artifacts. Though the film sometimes looks overcast with gray skies, this is an always-accurate picture from the theatrical release. The soundtrack has a wide front soundfield, with limited use of surrounds except when called for such as during the helicopter sequence. This is what I call "comedy soundtrack syndrome" which means that you simply don't have as active a mix for comedies (and heavy dramas for that matter) as you will in an action picture. Still, dialogue is clear and the mix is effective in presenting what is asked of it.
There is a cornucopia of extra content for your viewing pleasure as well. The most important of these is the commentary track by the Farrelly brothers, which gives location and shot information, but tends to be a bit too obsessive about every friend and relative who played a part as an extra in the film. I suppose they needed to get all those names out so their friends have bragging rights. Still it is an enjoyable track overall. An extended branching mode is also used which can allow you to see behind the scenes vignettes or deleted scenes added in where they fit into the film. They can also be seen separately, and the vignettes are especially nice since they really are behind the scenes during the shooting without any promotional fluff. The promotional fluff is available in a separate featurette, along with two trailers and two TV spots, a music video from the Foo Fighters, and a stills gallery. DVD-ROM content consists of only an online game. It's a big collection of extras, most of which I was grateful to see.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is still a lot to complain about. The Farrelly brothers have done some great work in the past, including Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary. This film isn't up to the quality of any of those. I still laughed enough to give a marginal recommendation, but I still think it is a step backwards. The Farrelly brothers delight in taking risks and stretching the envelope, and I applaud that, but sometimes risktaking means failing in your goals. I am hardly one to espouse political correctness, but I thought that the albino jokes, the stereotypical cursing from the black youths, and other attempts to go where no one has gone before fell flat.
Many groups have complained about the film, some with good reason. When you are going to put millions of dollars into a film, I would hope you could at least do your homework on making the script accurate in what it is trying to do. Organizations that help those with schizophrenia have complained that the malady shown in the film is not accurate and can misinform people of the real nature of the disease. This is true, and from the commentary it became obvious that they used this particular name for the disease from the top of their heads without a thought for accuracy. A little homework would have been welcome and could have been just as funny. Likewise with our genius youths; they are to display their mighty intellects in a couple scenes that fail because the Farrellys didn't know any better. What was purported to be a quantum mechanics question one was struggling with was in fact something any freshman chemistry student would find easy to answer. Later when the trio is trying to fly a helicopter using a manual written in German, would it have been so hard to actually use the German language? As it turns out they were only making up gibberish that sounded German subtitled to be the correct lines in English. How hard would that be to fix? This may sound like nitpicking, but I think it was just laziness. Laziness doesn't equate well for me when $51 million is being spent.
The plot on the other hand was anything but lazy. This story was so convoluted that you simply had to ignore most of it and just accept that the main characters were on the run. Simplifying the story would have been welcome, considering this was mostly the Jim Carrey show anyway.
Renée Zellweger is the foil for Carrey in the film, but is lackluster in a very familiar way in her role. She may be sweet, cute, and nice to be around, but I can't remember the last time I was impressed with her in a film. She is a competent actress to be sure, but can't keep up with Jim Carrey here. Perhaps that is an impossible task, made harder by the script, but I didn't feel much empathy for her. I must admit I have not yet seen Nurse Betty, which may change my mind.
Lastly, Carrey had his own problems. While Charlie was likable and had some great comedic moments, it was hard to identify with Hank even though he was the one who got to get some revenge for all the abuse Charlie had taken over the years. He was so totally unlikable that it took away from the enjoyment of the film. Carrey did a lot with the role, and had some funny moments, but ultimately I just wanted him to go away.
If you saw the film in the theater and liked it, you will absolutely love this DVD. If you haven't, then I'd recommend a rental to see if you are like me and the good outweighs the flaws with the film. Certainly the picture quality, soundtrack, and great extra content warrant a purchase for fans.
The Farrelly brothers get a slap on the wrist for not doing their homework and for an overly convoluted script, and a fine on behalf of albinos, schizophrenics, and other groups that got a poor attempt at humor at their expense. Jim Carrey gets an acquittal as one of the finest comedic actors of his generation, and Fox gets a commendation for a first rate DVD presentation. Court is adjourned.
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