Me, Myself and Irene (R)
20th Century Fox
Scary Movie (R)
There's no irony lost in the fact that last weekend, on a sweltering July Saturday, I herded my three teenage sons, the Eastburn brothers, to the blessedly air-conditioned multiplex for a gross-out extravaganza -- a double feature of the Farrelly brothers' Me, Myself and Irene and the Wayans brothers' Scary Movie. It was a virtual smorgasbord of butt jokes, juvenile sexual references, wagging dildos, racial stereotyping and utterly pointless, mostly offensive humor. We had a great time.
The funny thing was that less than an hour later, walking through the air-conditioned aisles of our neighborhood supermarket, lingering near the frozen food section, we all agreed we'd forgotten that we'd gone to the movies. So slight, so silly, so bad are these films -- Scary Movie more than Me, Myself and Irene, but the effect is basically the same -- that they are truly forgettable.
Me, Myself and Irene, in spite of the combined comic genius of Jim Carrey and the Farrellys, is a real step backward for both the actor and the filmmakers. Although he was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Pictures last year following his eerily perfect re-creation of Andy Kaufman in Man On the Moon, Carrey has come to be widely respected for his rubber-faced impressions and full-throttle comic energy. There's no mistaking he's a true original, a brilliant comic actor who stands apart from the pack of mostly low-key, self-referential types who dominate television and movie screens.
In Me, Myself and Irene, Carrey plays Charlie Baileygates, a sweet, all-around good guy who's proud to be part of "the greatest law enforcement agency in the world -- the Rhode Island state police." The opening sequences of the film are among the best, when we get to enjoy Carrey's pitch-perfect depiction of the ultimate geek. Charlie falls in love with Layla, they get married and move into a little clapboard cottage by the sea. But just as Charlie is carrying Layla over the threshold of his honeymoon haven, he's assaulted and driven to his knees by a black midget named Shont (Tony Cox) who, as it turns out, is also a university professor conducting social research under the guise of a limousine driver. Layla falls in love with Shont at first sight (turns out they are both presidents of their local Mensa chapters), beds him eventually and gives birth to three little black triplets who Charlie raises as his own.
The Farrellys are definitely onto something here, satirizing with fierce humor the ultimate taboo subject -- white paranoia over black male virility -- revealing the absurdity of that peculiar prejudice with their skewed comedic insight. But Me, Myself and Irene quickly reverts to stock gross-out humor and rambles farther and farther away from this central comic conceit.
Charlie eventually takes one insult too many after years of complacency, and his personality splits to reveal Hank, his blustering alter ego, a swaggering jerk who talks with a velvet rumble. Carrey shows off his best physical ability, throwing himself mercilessly into both roles, and eventually hooks up with Renee Zellweger as Irene Waters, a chick on the run from the law who is rescued by Charlie/Hank. Zellweger (who always looks as if she's chewing the insides of her lush lips) gets little chance to shine here because her character is dwarfed by Carrey's, and the movie's runaway action plot eventually throws both characters into utter chaos -- chase scenes, shootouts, helicopter rescues, you name it.
Not an entire waste of two hours, Me, Myself and Irene inspires several deep belly laughs with the Farrelly's signature sick humor, but it wanders so far off course it's hard to hang on for the duration.
Scary Movie, a ripoff of teen slasher flicks Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, may win the overall competition for grossest gross-out jokes of any film ever. The audience, including my crew, alternates squeamishly between groans of disgust and hysterical laughter. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I laughed hard at the bit involving Miss Man, the dyke gym teacher whose balls fall out of her underpants while she tries to seduce a student.)
The brothers Wayans seem to have a concept here but they set up every joke so tediously and assiduously that by the time the punch line appears the joke is dead already. The competent cast play imperiled teenagers adequately, and some of their lines are genunely funny, but to watch Scary Movie is, basically, to suffer through an extended doo-doo riff with accents of snot, pee-pee and semen. You get the picture.
Considering old In Living Color re-runs and the Wayans, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that too much fame and fortune has just about ruined their unique comic approach. Given a big budget, they seem to wander, aggrandize, overcompensate and falter. I hope Scary Movie fails big and they get a serious wake-up call: We like to laugh but, hey, we're not morons.
All in all, the air-conditioning was grand, the popcorn made a filling Satuday afternoon lunch and the movies -- well, let's just say I hope the Eastburn brothers don't aspire to be filmmakers.