EXTRA: Carrey’s Unfunny Business

Whether the MPAA or the PTA approve or not, vulgarity is here to stay. But whether Jim Carrey is here to stay or not, that’s another question. Carrey, who has had an indelible hand in shaping twisty-faced humor into a proud genre of its own, failed to hit the high water mark with his latest comedic foray, “Me, Myself & Irene.” The Farrelly brothers-directed flick made a less-than-Carrey-like $24 million in its opening weekend and has grossed $83.1 million after five weeks. Not exactly a bomb, but in a summer that saw a $42 mil debut from a blatantly derivative flick called “Scary Movie”, Carrey’s no longer the undisputed King of Comedy.

Until 1998’s “The Truman Show” ($125.6 mil), it looked like the chameleon comedian could do no wrong. It all began with his 1994 breakthrough hit “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” ($108.3 mil), followed by “Dumb and Dumber” ($127.2 mil) and “The Mask” ($119.9 mil) in the same year, “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” ($108.3 mil) in 1995 and “Liar Liar” ($181.4 mil) in 1997. Except for “The Cable Guy” in 1996 ($60.2 mil), Jim Carrey has consistently been a $100 million man.

“Man on the Moon” Then, all of a sudden, the funnyman’s box office recession hit in 1999 with “Man on the Moon,” the Andy Kaufman biopic that made chump change ($34.5 mil) in comparison with his laundry list of hits.

“Me, Myself & Irene” — which clung to the No. 10 spot at the box office last weekend — was heralded as a respite from Carrey’s dramatic (i.e. not-so-lucrative) tangent and as his triumphant return to comic (i.e. lucrative) form.

So, why didn’t it set the world afunny? Could “Me, Myself & Irene” be underperforming because the modern-day Jerry Lewis himself has lost his knack? Is Jim Carrey’s schtick simply getting old?

For answers, we asked Martin Knelman, author of the biography “Jim Carrey: The Joker Is Wild,” and he says the answer is no.

“[’Me, Myself & Irene’] is just not a very good movie,” says Knelman. “Carrey does as well as anyone did. The problem is not with Jim Carrey’s physical comedy, but it’s that [the jokes] are not connected to the film in any narrative ways. It’s just a lackluster movie, and it’s not as good as a script.”

We also asked Paul Dergarabedian, an industry analyst and box office watcher for Exhibitor Relations Co., and he likewise disagreed with the notion that Carrey’s clownery is becoming passe. To the contrary, Dergarabedian thinks Carrey’s clout is falling because he hasn’t been sticking to his tried-and-true comedy formula.

“I don’t think his act, quote-unquote, is old. Actually, I think [slapstick comedy is] what people want, but he’s been sort of straying away from that. Audiences respond to him when he’s more of the funny, goofy kind of guy, the friendly schlub who is the butt of jokes.

“I think [“Me, Myself & Irene”] was expected to do better,” Dergarabedian adds. “I think any time you have a Jim Carrey movie, there’s always a possibility that film could do over $100 million. And certainly the Farrelly brothers also have that potential, since ‘There’s Something About Mary’ did $168 million, but this one just didn’t catch on in that way.”

Perhaps blaming the film’s lukewarm draw on Carrey might be unfair. If you believe what you read, then what’s repelled viewers from “Me, Myself & Irene” is the tasteless jokes — the pooping in the front yard, or a scene where Jim suckles a mother’s breast. You can blame the Farrellys for that stuff.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” As one netizen gripes on a Jim Carrey fan Web site (www.jimcarreyonline.com), “Please tell me why it is necessary for Big Jim Carrey to use vulgarity as humor? He is a man of many talents and should not rely on the shocking and disgusting things for comedy. Come on, Jim, stop wasting time … be funny without the yuck and nasty.”

But, Carrey lovers, don’t fret. Knelman predicts that it’s “extremely likely” the actor’s next headliner, the holiday tentpole “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” will be the biggest Jim Carrey hit yet.

And why not? After all, no one would dare try to desecrate the Dr. Seuss classic with poop. Right?