With Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary and now Me, Myself & Irene, writer-director brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly have established themselves as the most original comic minds in Hollywood today. Like its predecessors, this heavily plotted farce about a Rhode Island state trooper with two personalities goes over the top in its violent crudeness. Yet if the sight gags shock—and they do, considering they involve breast-feeding, urination and a dying cow (though not, amazingly, all at once)—they don't offend. Somehow a sunny, middle-American decency shines through. It's as if Frank Capra served as the guiding light for South Park.
As the Me and Myself of the title, Carrey starts out as Charlie, a perpetual chump who can't stand confrontation on the beat or at home. Carrey does this character mostly by baring his large, even teeth in a smile of fatuous embarrassment. Cracking under the strain, Charlie slips into a second personality named Hank, a lying, bullying, horny creep. Hank speaks in a dead-calm whisper that sounds like a computer-synthesized Clint Eastwood.
Charlie, with Hank along for the ride, is sent to Upstate New York to turn in Irene (Zellweger), a hit-and-run suspect whom the police have picked up in Providence. But Irene is really being set up by gangsters, among them an ex-boyfriend, who operate out of a golf course. (Yes, it's murky.) Carrey's personalities battle for dominance while trying to save Irene from these thugs. Along the way they befriend an albino who may have butchered his family.
Me, Myself & Irene doesn't come together as satisfyingly as Dumb or Mary: The wispy Zellweger, who tends to give off the sulky air of a little girl who doesn't like her babysitter, isn't a good match for Carrey's harsh, frantic edginess. And the escalating conflict between Charlie and Hank, with the nice guy resurfacing with the scared look of a hostage in a ransom-note video, has a weird, ugly believability—Cop, Interrupted. But the Farrellys (who cowrote the screenplay with Mike Cerrone) are willing to let things get messy. In this case, I say, mess is more.
Bottom Line: The good, the bad and the funny
Animated, with voices by Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson
Chicken Run is im-peck-able fun, a yolk-filled delight that will leave the whole family cackling with laughter. Flock to it immediately. But enough pun-ishment: For more and much better, see the movie.
The first feature-length film from Claymation wizards Nick Park and Peter Lord and their Aardman studio—makers of the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit shorts—Run follows the struggles of a flock of birds who yearn to fly the coop at Tweedy's Chicken Farm. Their leader, Ginger (Sawalha, showing vocally the same fierce rectitude she did as Saffron on TV's Absolutely Fabulous), convinces her fellow fowl that learning to fly is their ticket out. Their instructor? A roving rooster (Gibson) who calls himself the Lone Free Ranger.
With its winking homages to films like Stalag 17 and The Great Escape, Run is visually inventive, its characters plump with personality and, for a bunch of chickens, ever so brave. (G)
Bottom Line: Worth crowing over
Animated, with voices by Matt Damon
, Drew Barrymore
, Bill Pullman
If space is the final frontier, animation has now conquered it. Titan A.E., a sci-fi film from codirectors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (Anastasia), combines traditional animation with computer-generated imagery to create one way-cool-looking cartoon. Its sleek spaceships, glittering intergalactic icebergs and creepy aliens rival anything George Lucas has put on a screen.
But looks, as any winner of a Miss Congeniality award can attest, aren't everything. Story and characters also count, and in those areas Titan A.E. (the A.E. stands for "After Earth") is little more than Flash Gordon with attitude and a rock soundtrack. Its cocky young hero (Damon), having survived Earth's destruction, must find and activate a gizmo that will recreate his native planet. You'd have to be under 13 to believe there was actually something at stake here. (PG)
Bottom Line: Looks great, but never achieves liftoff
>Butterfly Yet another foreign film (it's Spanish) about friendship between a child and an oldster. Here, a boy and his teacher bond on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Sweet but small. (R)
Croupier Intriguing British thriller about a struggling novelist (Clive Owen) who discovers that real life trumps fiction when he gets a job as a croupier in a shady London casino. (Not rated)
Gone in 60 Seconds Forgotten even faster. A car thief (Nicolas Cage) must steal 50 cars in a single night. The wheels are the real stars. (PG-13)
Jesus' Son A drug-abusing loser (Billy Crudup) crawls through one misery after another before reaching an oasis of peace. Somber yet moving, it's like Drugstore Cowboy, only the high feels unexpectedly religious. (R)
Mission: impossible 2 Barely Mission Passable. Tom Cruise
sweats through nifty action sequences, but the plot is gobbledygook. (PG-13)
Small Time Crooks Medium-size laughs. Woody Allen and Tracey Ullman star in the actor-director's latest comedy, but a wonderfully daffy Elaine May effortlessly steals the movie. (PG)
- Leah Rozen.
Jim Carrey, Renée Zellweger