I Love You Phillip Morris

Theatrical Release Date: 12/17/2010
Directors: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro


Is it awkward we’re wearing the same outfit?

Prison isn’t such a bad place to be. At least, that’s how writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa portray it in “I Love You Phillip Morris”.

The film is based on the true story of Steven Jay Russell (played by Jim Carrey). Supposedly happy in his marriage to a Bible thumping wife (Leslie Mann), a car accident prompts Russell to come clean with his homosexuality and he leaves her and his kids to live la vida loca in Florida. The relationship with his new boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro) is expensive, full of pricey gifts and a lavish lifestyle, leading Russell to commit multiple acts of insurance and credit card fraud. Of course, at some point the authorities catch up to him.

Once in prison, he finds a new love in the form of Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). We then see their relationship blossom while they serve time together and once they’re both released. It’s here that the film begins its downward slide.

You see, pretty much up to this point, the script and directors have managed to keep the energy level and pacing very high, along with the comedy factor. However, they’ve done so via the supporting characters. The funniest lines come from a flashback sequence with Russell’s adoptive parents and scenes with Cleavon (Michael Mandel), a fellow inmate whose word is his profanity laced bond. Almost exactly from the point at which Cleavon is no longer in the film, the lack of interest sets in.

I had theorized that maybe one of the directors handled the first third of the movie and then turned it over to the other, but seeing as Ficarra and Requa have been working as a team for years (penning the scripts for “Cats and Dogs”, “Bad Santa” and the “Bad News Bears” remake), I suppose my theory holds no water.

Carrey and McGregor try to make it work but it appears to be a case where these first time directors simply weren’t able to steer the production on an even keel. The film is manic, at times being over the top and irreverent, at others tragic and pedestrian. The best comparison one could make is to say that this would feature on a double feature bill with “The Informant!“. Both are based on true stories that seem too insane to be genuine but they are. As a result, the manner in which the stories develop and resolve feel forced and insincere … even though that’s the way they happened in real life.

Sadly, “I Love You Phillip Morris” simply fails to make us care about the characters enough to be okay with how the journey plays out and gets a 2 out of 5. I would gladly watch the first half hour again but only under the condition I didn’t then have to watch the rest of it.

2 out of 5