Make no mistake, I Love You Phillip Morris is not a return of the Funster. Carrey plays Steven Russell, a policeman, Christian and a doting husband to a more than perfect wife. It’s an idyllic lifestyle, one that has a couple of minor snags.
Mainly that Steven is a raving homosexual. It’s something that he doesn’t fully embrace until a car crash, giving him a new lease of life. His epiphany: breaking the law to support a super-luxurious lifestyle. You go girl!
While Steven has been building up an unhealthy portfolio of cons, it all catches up with him, leading to his unfortunate incarceration. In prison he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a gentle soul and the two fall in love through prison bars, beatings and bunk sharing.
It’s an offbeat comedy, not full of laugh-out-loud escapades, the gayness itself isn’t so much of a tool of ridicule, just an unconventional aspect of a messed-up love story. McGregor and Carrey actually have a surprising amount of chemistry, making for a tangible touchstone in an otherwise outlandish, unbelievable true story.
It’s a story that would probably amuse more in the trivia section of a lads rag but the directional duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have downplayed most of the laughs in the film. It doesn’t quite fit in with Carrey’s style but gives it an edge, a darkness that imbued the debut director’s previous screenplay for Bad Santa.
It’s not that the story doesn’t have potential; most of the scenarios could be adapted into features of their own. It’s all ripe for comedy but it only amuses, making most of the impact by the notion of this being some bizarre non-fiction.
Underplaying to the extreme, it often feels unsure of what it wants to be. Is it an unconventional love story; an outlandish comedy-con caper; or another crowd-pleasing Carrey comedy vehicle? Russell’s time in prison is the only area where the balance manages to maintain, especially in one sequence of slow-dancing, flippant expletives and prison beating.
There’s much to like, though, quick, breezy, never resting on one con or situation for too long and by the end of the film you’re left spurring the central coupling on to happiness. Perhaps in a heavier hand this could have been a zany outlet for Carrey’s old charms or another director could have steered this into more subtle territory. As it is, a slightly uneven, unconventional tale that has enough twists to make this engaging.
‘Spray Rating: 3.5/5