Jim Carrey is funny man. In fact, he is arguably the biggest comedy movie star in the world. His CV can be split into two definite columns: the out-and-out comedy roles like Ace Ventura and Lloyd Christmas, and the more serious ones like Truman Burbank and Andy Kaufman.
I Love You Phillip Morris is somewhere between the two, a mongrel that seems to flit at times between comedy and drama. The suspicion is that this is largely down to Carrey. As is often the case in his work, Jim owns the movie. Every scene he is in (which equates to most if not all of the film) is focused solely on him.
Whether this is a blessing or a curse really depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Are you after the new Jim Carrey flick or do you want a drama “based on an incredible true story”?
Carrey plays real-life con man Steven Russell, who swindled his way through the 1990s, masquerading as a lawyer and a judge and fabricating credentials to land a job at a large corporation only to embezzle thousands of dollars.
Old rubberface shines in the role, and plays Russell with such gusto that, despite the character’s inherent repulsiveness, he is difficult to dislike.
Ewan McGregor’s supporting turn as the eponymous object of Russell’s affection is very much the heart of the film. He doesn’t play for laughs as much as Carrey does. Instead, he makes Phillip just a very sweet natured and likeable man, working wonders with an underwritten role.
Writer/director team John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (writers of Bad Santa and Bad News Bears) are known for their foul-mouthed comedies and, for the most part, they seem happy to keep the film firmly in that area.
Not that this is a criticism, as it is largely very funny, and certainly the subject matter has enormous potential for a good, old-fashioned farce. Imagine the writers of Bad Santa remaking Catch Me If You Can and you’re not too far off.
At times, the laughs detract from the situations’ seriousness. Russell is, after all, a criminal who is chronically lying to his boyfriend and the ramifications don’t really hit home due to Carrey’s rampant behaviour. Even towards the end when Russell is seen to be dying, he hasn’t quite generated enough goodwill for us to really care. It’s Phillip we feel for rather than him.
Nevertheless, if what you are looking for is a knockabout comedy, with just enough real feeling to make it stick in the mind, then this will more than suffice. Just don’t expect to be drawn to tears come the denouement.
Sadly, not much is included in extras. A ten minute making-of is little more than a puff piece, and there are interviews with Carrey, McGregor, Requa and Ficarra in which everybody talks about how wonderful everybody else is (the same interviews are used in the making-of as well), plus the UK trailer.
A documentary on the real man would have been very welcome, as would something on the film’s US pre-release controversy (it almost wasn’t released at all).
I Love You Phillip Morriswill be released on Blu-ray on August 2, 2010 and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.