Hey, Everyone. "Moriarty" here. Why is it that Knowles feels compelled to slander me over and over on this page? After all the fine hospitality he was shown at the Moriarty Labs Spa and Resort, why must he lie mercilessly to you, the unsuspecting public? Yes, it's true we used the Time Machine, but that's about all he got right. Let me lay some facts on you, just for the record.
First of all, if Knowles had attempted to search the Labs, the security systems would have flayed the poor bastard. He begged me to use the Time Machine when he realized we'd missed the ME, MYSELF & IRENE screening. Really. It was pathetic. He cried and jumped up and down and threatened to run with scissors if I didn't help him travel back in time. I tried to patiently explain that several people have actually had their hearts explode during the process, and I didn't think that I could, in good faith, subject him to it. He insisted, though. He had to see the film. When I finally brought out the Machine (not a beanbag… what sort of classless monster does he think I am?!), he started to get nervous. Most people do when they realize there's a catheter involved. He refused to back off, though. I think by then it was a point of pride. So I set it for both of us to go, the logistics of which were difficult enough, and we traveled back to the morning of that particular Thursday. I've tried to explain the sensation before, and the best I can come up with is it's like having the entire Rockettes squad kick you in the balls at once. You can't even cry. Sound is not an option. It passes, though, after a few days, so I told him to stop cursing God and get up.
He was telling the truth about the Rick Baker part. I think this guy's a genius. Not only did he manage to make Harry look like the ugliest woman of all time, but he managed to make me look like an average late 20s fanboy with a goatee, shaggy hair, and glasses. The preposterous nature of the outfits made us both laugh. When we were in line for the actual screening in Orange County, we dealt directly with all the fine people at NRG, and not one of them recognized us despite all the surveillance photos they've had taken. It was glorious. Once inside, Knowles made himself comfortable, a process I wish I could scour from my memory, and we settled in to see the newest piece of comic mania from The Farrellly Brothers.
I think these guys are taking the exact opposite career arc from the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team, starting modestly and building instead of peaking early and beating a comic model to death. In the case of ZAZ, I really love KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (particularly A FISTFUL OF YEN, the Bruce Lee parody), AIRPLANE!, and the film I consider their masterwork, TOP SECRET! From there on, though, the law of diminishing returns seems to have kicked in. It was only when they finally abandoned the parody form that they were able to reestablish themselves as filmmakers. One of the reasons the Farrellys seem to be growing as artists is because they've never tied their brand of mania to specific pop culture parody. Instead, they write real movies that just happen to be deranged from start to finish. DUMB AND DUMBER is a sweet little buddy film that works primarily because of chemistry. KINGPIN is a pretty great little film that has an amazing cast and seemed to be them testing the waters to see how outrageous they could be. THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY is, in my opinion, comic bliss. To somehow convince America that a romantic comedy about stalking was not just a good thing but a GREAT thing… well, folks, that's genius of some sort.
Now they've done it again, crafting their finest film with ME, MYSELF, & IRENE. They've managed to stake out their claim on this particular blend of heartfelt character work and insane outrageous scatological comedy. It's not for everyone… especially in a world where people seem to be increasingly thin-skinned about comic targets… but it makes me laugh consistently. This time out, we're dealing with the story of a great guy named Charlie, played by Jim Carrey. He's a simple guy who wants only a few things in his modest life. He wants to be married to the perfect girl, played in the film's opening by Traylor Howard, and he wants to be a great police officer for the "finest law enforcement agency in the world, the Rhode Island Highway Patrol." His marriage goes south within minutes of him tying the knot when he gets into a hysterical fight with the limo driver on his honeymoon, a vertically challenged African-American who gets outraged when Charlie asks if "you people" take checks. When Charlie's wife tries to soothe the ruffled feathers of Shante, the driver, she learns that he's a MENSA member, just like her. Sparks fly and we cut to the delivery room where Charlie's three beautiful baby boys are born. Actually, that should read "Charlie's three beautiful black baby boys," a fact that seems to bother everyone but Charlie. It doesn't matter how many people bring up his sons' "year round tans," Charlie loves them dearly. Even when his wife runs off with Shante, he remains a devoted and giving father. His sons grow up into three rowdy young actors who are one of the film's secret weapons. They steal scene after scene they're in, and I would hope we see these characters again in a showcase for their particular talents. They're that funny.
The pressure from all this takes its toll on poor Charlie, though. Everyone in town treats him like a doormat, whether it be friends who refuse to treat his warnings about illegal parking seriously or children who don't listen to him because their daddies say he's a joke. One day, Charlie simply snaps, and a second personality pushes its way forward, an aggressive monster named Hank who gives voice to all the things that Charlie never could. When I originally read the script for M, M & I, I was afraid that Carrey would deliver something here that would play like a riff off THE MASK or even Tony Clifton from MAN ON THE MOON. Instead, he's created another indelible comic character. Hank is disgusting, but he's also vulnerable. He's abrasive, but there's truth in a lot of what he says. He's morally bankrupt, but he's the only way Charlie can survive. It's smart stuff, played on the basest of levels. When Hank and Charlie literally begin to battle for control of the body they occupy, prepare yourself for the most astonishing sustained piece of physical comedy since Steve Martin's performance in ALL OF ME. Jim has never starred in an R-rated comedy before, so it's refreshing to see him cut loose and do all the truly perverse things he's never been allowed to do before. He also brings the experience he's gained over the last few films to the table, though, and he finds the human heart of these characters. There's one painfully funny scene where he's got a broken nose (you'll just have to see it) and he's trying to confess some core truths about himself to Irene. As he does, that nose keeps whistling at the most inopportune moments. As much as it made me giggle the first time, it had me weeping helplessly by the end. It's the juxtaposition of this serious, even touching moment with this insane sound, this reminder of earlier abuse, that just about killed me.
The Farrellys seem to have a particular ability to build a comic scene for maximum effect. The trailer that IGN Movies posted a few days back was a good indicator of some of the gags, but it can only show bits and pieces. To me, the glory of their films, and this one in particular, is how they torture the audience. They take a joke and give it to you right up front. Big laugh. Then they tweak that joke. Bigger laugh. Then they take the joke and turn it inside out. By now, there's just waves of laughter, that infectious kind that can render whole audiences useless. They just keep working that nerve mercilessly, and then they do the thing that so few comic writers seem capable of these days - they get out at just the right moment. When a scene is over, it's over. The fact that the Farrellys test their films exhaustively is a large part of that magic. They use the testing process the exact right way. They show the film to an audience and they listen to them. I know it seems obvious when written out, but the fact that so many people try to break things down to numbers and questionnaires and focus groups would suggest that it's not the common wisdom it should be.
Renee Zellweger does a great job here. She's got the Jeff Daniels role in the film, a regular actor forced to hold their own opposite a comic force like Carrey. In both cases, it pays off because the actors create real characters who just happen to be stuck in outrageous comic worlds not of their making. Irene Waters is a woman who made a bad relationship choice and just keeps paying the price for the whole film. She has totally different chemistry with Hank and Charlie, and that's a real credit to Zellweger. She's also the butt of some pointed, wicked jokes about that crinkle-faced appeal of hers, that just-ate-a-lemon look that I think is so adorable. She's got to be a damn good sport.
The thing that struck me most about the supporting cast of the film is the way the Farrellys cast unconventional actors in roles that most people would use as throwaways. Not these guys. When a police commissioner shows up late in the film, he's in a wheelchair, and not a single mention is made of it in the movie. They didn't cast him because he was in a wheelchair, and it's certainly not meant to be a joke. They just decided to give someone a role that they would normally never be given. That's the reason that I refuse to believe there's a single mean comic bone between these two guys. They have proven time and time again that they don't marginalize anyone. They have an inclusive world view that's very rare in studio filmmaking. It's easy to dismiss them critically. Comedy always gets less respect than drama. When filmmakers are this consistent about something so subtly important, though, then they must be taken seriously.
I think I should stop talking about the film now. I'm afraid I'll start ruining things for you, and that just wouldn't be fair. Know this, though… this film is going to be a commercial MONSTER when it's released. Audiences are going to go to it over and over again, and it's entirely justified. When it can cost upwards of $30 just to park, get snacks, and take a date to a movie these days, the average filmgoer prays for a film that will deliver every penny's worth of entertainment value, and this is one of those films. I'm glad I finally got to take Harry on a Time Machine trip with me. Yes, we could have gone forward in time and just seen the film upon release, but what fun would that have been? Seeing the test screening was the fun part. I just wish I didn't have to drive to Orange County to do it. I know it's the reason I'm going to pass on Cameron Crowe's UNTITLED this week. Oh, wait… I'm not supposed to know about that, am I? Damn… guess I'm going to have to have Baker make me a new disguise so I can hide from the wrath of Farrell and his bully boys. I'm off to consult with him now. Once I'm feeling safe, I'll bring you that RUMBLINGS I promised. Until then…