The trouble with edgy humour is that you have to walk that very thin line of having gags which push new boundaries and are remembered long after the audience leaves the theatre. It’s a precarious line because on the one side are jokes that are just so soft they’re forgotten within five minutes, on the other is those that go so far that they lose their humour and seem just plain stupid or slanderous.
The cleverer the joke the easier it is to walk that line, but since when are the Farrelly Brothers known for smart humour. Yes the writing/directing duo have re-teamed with their “Dumb and Dumber” co-star Jim Carrey to bring us a film which has Carrey returning to the genre which made him a star – dumb toilet humour.
More complex and enjoyable than D&D, ‘Irene’ thankfully aims a little higher. Its a decent film in its own right and better than the Farrelly’s other previous work with the exception of 1998’s infinitely superior “There’s Something About Mary”. That film walked ‘the line’ with deft touch, giving us memorable gags interspersed with a complex and interesting array of characters. Sure sometimes one or two jokes fell off, but the story and romance it could fall back on during the quiet spots was very strong. Not so in this film where the laughs are definitely spread out much more evenly, but certainly fall off the line and into that ‘too far’ category regularly.
As the ads have indicated this is a split personality kind of movie so Carrey gets to give two separate performances which come together at the end. On the one hand is the ‘Charlie’ hero persona which he’s in for 75% of the film. A complete pushover, he’s basically a waste of a character but has to be there to counterbalance with Hank.
Carrey as Hank on the other hand is priceless, bar one or two bad attempts at emotional scenes toward the end this character, who has a tendency to say everything in sexual metaphors, is great. Most of the jokes will make you giggle or laugh, and the inevitable ‘fight’ scene between the personalities at a railway station is a truly imaginative piece.
Some gags though such as a breast feeding one seem silly and contrived, but others such as a supermarket price check on a certain feminine product walk that ‘line’ with deft touch. One running gag throughout the film is Carrey’s three super-smart African-American sons who could support a whole film on their own – they are the highlight and the ones people will be talking about after seeing it.
On the downside is everything else. Zellweger does a commendable job playing a truly flat love interest who is a complete waste of a ‘straight guy’ role to Carrey’s antics. The story is cobbled together with a god awful sub-plot about corrupt cops thrown in with little or no forethought. All the other minor supporting characters are yawners ranging from Robert Forrester seemingly reprising his “Psycho” psychiatrist role again to Chris Cooper in his shortest and most disappointing part yet – and top it all off with perhaps the most annoying Mr. Ed-like narration voiceover I’ve ever heard.
Then comes the jokes which are mostly pretty low-grade humour, lots of dick-related sex jokes which would be fine if they were clever – but are far from it, they’re simply crass and unoriginal. For every clever subtle gag such as the 80’s moustached-look at a BBQ scene, there’s overt ones which are just not funny such as those related to an albino character. The film just seems desperately trying to be as offensive as possible which is its biggest mistake – it tries too hard so many of the jokes just feel forced and don’t click. “Kingpin” suffered the same problem.
Despite all that it’s a film which has its own style of idiotic charm. Its no ‘Mary’ and certainly no ‘South Park’, in fact there likely to be several other comedies this Summer which will be funnier. If however you’re after some light escapist entertainment which doesn’t call for much taxing of the brain then you’ll like this. This is one for the Carrey fans of old.