Me, Myself & Irene

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There are people who are tired of Jim Carrey. They find his mugging and cloying to be unfunny and self-centered, like a class clown who favors funny faces over humorous content, who uses energy and pratfalls to make up for his lack of actual talent.

I am one of those people. I have enjoyed Carrey in movies, and I have disenjoyed him in others. In the “Ace Ventura” films, it seemed like someone just told him, “Go out there and be Jim Carrey, and we’ll film it!” It’s times like that — when he’s not reined in, completely ad-libbing and throwing himself around — that he’s least funny. It’s what Robin Williams does every time he’s on a talk show, spewing a thousand jokes a minute, about three of which are actually good.

In “Me, Myself & Irene,” though, Carrey is directed well (by the notorious Farrelly brothers, who also guided him in “Dumb & Dumber”) and gives a performance that is nothing short of genius. Yes, he’s full of manic energy, like always. But he’s not just flailing his limbs around randomly: He’s doing everything for a reason. And motivated comedy is always funnier than senseless shticking.

Carrey plays Charlie Baileygates, a milquetoast Rhode Island state policeman who is pushed around by everyone — and gladly takes it. Seems that 18 years earlier, his soul-mate wife had an affair with a black man, resulting in three illegitimate black children, whom she left with Charlie when she dumped him. Charlie was devastated, but repressed all his anger. Since then, he has avoided all confrontation.

Until now. He’s reached the breaking point, and his alter ego, who calls himself Hank Evans, emerges. Hank speaks in a Clint Eastwood tough-guy growl, says whatever he wants, does whatever he wants, and gets Charlie out of a number of scrapes.

Charlie is called upon to escort a possible criminal named Irene (Renee Zellweger) back to upstate New York. Along the way, both Charlie and Hank fall in love with her, and while she prefers the sweet-natured Charlie, she also appreciates Hank’s ability to keep them from getting killed by some bad cops in cahoots with her no-good boyfriend.

As usual with the Farrellys, this one’s hit-and-miss. (No matter how much its two or three really memorable scenes may have implanted themselves in your brain, “There’s Something About Mary” was ultimately the same way.) Utterly hysterical moments — Charlie trying to urinate after a night of sex, trying to put an injured cow out of its misery, misusing both a chicken and a breast-feeding mother (in separate scenes, don’t worry) — are intermingled with too much focus on the stupid “bad cops” plot, not to mention the worthless romance between Charlie and Irene, put there just so the Farrellys can claim underlying sweetness in their over-the-top crass movies. And 2 hours is far too long for a film of this nature to sustain its welcome. Many scenes drag on and simply aren’t funny.

But it’s more hit than miss, thanks to Carrey. Charlie and Hank, despite dressing the same and inhabiting the same body, walk, talk and look completely different. Carrey has played two roles in the same film before, but creating two totally different characters without benefit of costumes or wigs is amazing. The war between the two sides of Charlie is a tour-de-force of physical comedy.

There is also abundant humor in Charlie’s three teen-age black sons, raised on Richard Pryor and possessed of filthy, gangsta-rapper mouths. The catch? They also have genius IQs and discuss physics and science, leading to absurdly juxtaposed statements like, “Enrico Fermi would roll over in his motherf—— grave.” In fact, the boys’ love and concern for their father is where the film’s real sweetness is.

Zellweger does fine, but seems a bit overwhelmed by all the mayhem surrounding her. This is Carrey’s film and no one else’s, and he alone makes it a hilariously offensive gem.

B+ (; R, abundant harsh profanity, sexual vulgarity, other crassness, some violence.)

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