A Jim Carrey character traditionally wakes up in the morning nursing a coruscating rage masked by antic adaptability. So it’s just another sunshiny day for the actor in Me, Myself & Irene. Carrey plays Charlie Baileygates, a Rhode Island state trooper so pathologically mild-mannered that even when his wife gives birth to black triplets, then leaves him for the boys’ father, a Mensa-card-carrying, African-American dwarf limo driver, Charlie never complains, never explains, just loves his sons.
But two-facedness being his specialty, Carrey also plays Hank, the pathologically aggressive, dirty-minded id to Charlie’s superego, who, after years of incubation, hatches with all the drama of an ”Alien” birth. And both personalities fall for Irene (Renée Zellweger), a plucky woman unfairly implicated in a business fraud devised by her skunky fiancé. So on a long road trip from Rhode Island to upstate New York – there’s a warrant out for Irene’s arrest, and Officer Baileygates is her escort – both Charlie and Hank vie for the girl.
”Me, Myself & Irene” is a romance; famously, the stars fell in love, too, after working together. (Certainly Carrey looks smitten whenever he gazes at Zellweger, amiable in a sketchy, reactive role.) But the movie is also first and foremost a comedy by the Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby. And famously, the creators of ”There’s Something About Mary” and the 1994 Carrey starrer ”Dumb and Dumber” never settle for one reference to dogs pooping and men farting if two or three will do; when the brothers’ mojo is in high gear, every instance of gleeful bad taste is timed and positioned for maximum, liberating laugh value.
So why is the mojo now stuck in second gear? ”Me, Myself & Irene” shifts unsteadily between slow-moving, gauzy focus romance and ”transgressive” gross-out comedy as lurchingly as Charlie and Hank battle for airtime. The classic touches that distinguish the Farrellys from such auteurs as Steven Soderbergh and Abbas Kiarostami – I’m thinking, in no particular order, of the introduction of a dildo, a chicken shoved up a gentleman’s behind, and a gun-waving albino waiter – aren’t paced with nearly the slapdash finesse of ”Mary.” Even punchline scenes run long, as if the filmmakers found it particularly hard to part with footage. Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, and Jerod Mixon do a great jiggle and bop as Charlie’s three sons. But the talents of other piquant supporting actors, particularly Chris Cooper and Robert Forster, are lost in the random hubbub.
As for Carrey, well, nobody does Jekyll/Hyde better than the star of ”The Mask,” ”Liar, Liar,” and ”Man on the Moon.” Go figure: It turns out that smiley, unchaotic love both on screen and off is not nearly so inspiring to Peter and Bobby Farrelly as the opportunity to frolic with poop in their hearts.