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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Carrey sends Chickens running
Jim Carrey
The violent side to Carrey's character has angered mental health organisations
Hollywood actor Jim Carrey's controversial new comedy Me, Myself & Irene has shot to the top of the US box office charts ahead of the acclaimed clay-animated comedy Chicken Run.

Carrey's portrayal of a policeman suffering from a split personality has angered mental health organisations who say it ridicules people with schizophrenia.

However, preliminary figures show that, on its opening weekend, the movie raked in some $24.2m (£16m) - enough to push Chicken Run into a surprise second place with $17.5m (£11.5m).

As the first full length feature from the Oscar-winning Aardman Animations, Chicken Run was tipped as the weekend's number one attraction.

The movie - featuring the voice of Mel Gibson, Jane Horrocks, Julia Sawalha and Miranda Richardson - is an animated adventure about the desperate attempts of a group of hens to escape the cruel regime of their poultry farm.


Chicken Run
Chicken Run was tipped for the top

Aardman's Nick Park and Peter Lord were the brains behind the popular Wallace and Gromit shorts.

Their first feature venture - in collaboration with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio - had received widespread applause even before it had opened.

Nonetheless, cinema-goers opted mainly to see Carrey's latest venture, despite bad reviews.

Stigma

Movie critics have never been known to give Carrey much praise but they have been particularly uncomplimentary about Me, Myself & Irene.

The point of contention is the movie's choice of subject for humour.

Carrey plays a policeman afflicted with split personalities - meek and mild versus brazenly boorish - that battle each other for the affections of a character played by Bridget Jones actress Renee Zellweger.

Mental Health experts are also angry with the film. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill says Me, Myself & Irene shows "gross ignorance and insensitivity" to people with mental illnesses.

Arizona mental health specialist Dr Max Dine added: "It's important to show people that the mental health community will not take this stigmatising movie or language anymore. We will fight this as much as we can. It hurts us."


Renee Zellweger
Zellweger stars opposite real-life boyfriend Carrey

The movie marks Carrey's reunion with Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the writer-directors of his 1994 hit Dumb and Dumber.

Despite that, and the movie's chart rating, a poll of audiences taken as they came out of cinemas revealed that only about 60% would recommend the film.

Chicken Run however gained an 85% of viewers' votes.

Rounding off the top five films at the US box office were last weekend's number one remake of Shaft, starring Samuel L Jackon, with $13.3m (£18.8m).

Nicolas Cage's car-theft thriller Gone in Sixty Seconds was fourth with $9.5m (£6m), followed by the Martin Lawrence comedy Big Momma's House with $8.7 (£5.7m).

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