I Love You Phillip Morris
Kicked around for nearly two years since its Sundance ’09 premiere—allegedly because it was perceived as being too gay for a mass audience—I Love You Phillip Morris would’ve suffered no such indignity if a savvy marketer had loudly reminded everyone that it’s also the latest comedy from the writers of Bad Santa?. While it would be wrong to describe characters’ gayness as incidental—the romance at the movie’s center is sincere, and the film has already been celebrated for the post–American Pie comic coup in which McGregor, administering a blowjob, visibly spits semen off the side of a boat—but it’s just one element of a broader, cheerfully offensive satire. The film tells the (apparently) true story of con man Steven Russell (Carrey), who fleeced countless golfing, true-believing Texans during the height of George W. Bush’s governorship. On the basis of the movie, a stint in prison barely fazed him—and indeed, enabled him to fall in love with McGregor’s title character.
As for the laughs: They’re intermittent. While Ficarra and Requa prove to be just as graceless as Santa’s Terry Zwigoff behind the camera, that gracelessness isn’t counterbalanced by Zwigoff’s misanthropy; tethering the movie to Carrey’s aw-shucks giddiness—as opposed to Billy Bob Thornton’s dry profanity-spewing—is one of a handful of tonal miscalculations that keep Phillip Morris from being a complete success. (The music cues are particularly irritating.) Still, funny is funny: Whether bluffing his way through a back-room court deal or chastising his mother for selling him to another family (“I was the middle child!”), Carrey proves he’s still one of the fearless comedians of his generation.