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by: Michael Dequina

With their manic Dumb and Dumber star, Jim Carrey, back in their employ, "those pesky Farrelly Brothers" (as billed in the trailer) would appear to have it made for Me, Myself & Irene, their follow-up to the surprise smash There's Something About Mary. While the film does deliver enough laughs to merit a recommendation, it is a letdown given the caliber of the comic minds involved.

Irene's script was an early, long-unproduced effort for the brothers Bobby and Peter (who share share writing credit with Mike Cerrone), and it shows. In comedies, plot is an excuse to string along individual gags, but it goes without saying that whatever plot there is should make some kind of sense; Irene's doesn't. While the basic idea of the film--gentle Rhode Island state trooper Charlie Baileygates (Carrey) and his mean, nasty alternate personality Hank battle over the affections of the titular woman (Renée Zellweger)--is simple enough, the mechanics that bring and keep Charlie/Hank and Irene together in the first place are impossibly murky. It has something to do with Irene having knowledge of her ex-boyfriend's shady dealings, which have run him afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency. This wouldn't have been such a problem if the Farrellys didn't break their comedic rhythm every now and again with a boring, "story"-driven talking head scene.

Luckily, Carrey and the Farrellys' well-matched, go-for-broke comic sensibilities make it impossible to dwell too long on the confused plotting. Carrey's gift for physical comedy has been well-documented, so there's no reason to go into much detail about his performance (which, not surprisingly, is a perfect fit for his character's wild fluctuations). The Farrellys pack in no shortage of their trademark gross-out gags, but the idea that works the best is that of Charlie's African-American triplet sons (uh, don't ask). Played by Anthony Anderson, Mongo Brownlee, and Jerod Mixon, their profanity-laden vernacular teeters on stereotype, but what isn't so cliché is how hyperintelligent these three are. Needless to say, their brainy, four-letter-word-smothered speeches make for a hilarious ironic juxtaposition.

Irene isn't as gross-out extreme as Mary, yet, ironically, it lacks that film's genuine, surprising warmth. As shocking as much of Mary's humor is, the audience had a genuine rooting interest in the romance between Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz. In Irene, I don't know if it really would have mattered to me if Charlie were able to win Irene. Then again, when there are enough funny moments as there are in Irene, that shortcoming really doesn't matter too much.

RATING: *** 1/2 (out of *****)


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