Largely abandoned following a promising debut at Sundance in 2009--presumably because distributors were worried about standing behind a farcical romantic comedy centered on prison breaks and gay lovers--"I Love You Phillip Morris," the true story of super scammer Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) and his beloved Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), finally arrives in theaters after a string of missed release dates.
Adapted from investigative journalist Steven McVicker's book, I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks by Steve McVicker, Carrey leads the charge as an ex-police officer-turned-produce salesman, happily married to a lovely God-fearin' woman (Leslie Mann, as funny and captivating as ever despite minimal screen time), and living on the down low as a gay man, until a near fatal car accident convinces him that life is too short to be squandered. He comes out of the closet, divorces his wife and starts a fabulous new life in South Beach with his boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro), only to discover that “Being gay is expensive.” The only way to afford his new lifestyle is to turn to a life of crime and fraud, which eventually lands him in a Texas prison where he falls madly in love with a fellow prisoner, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor in all his doe-eyed, dreamy glory), setting off a string of jail breaks and new crimes in the hopes of living happily ever after with his beloved cellmate.
Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the twisted team behind "Bad Santa," "I Love You Phillip Morris" achieves a rare blend of witty, zany comedy with an unbridled sense of romance minus any sentimentality. Carrey's Silly Putty physicality and bravado performance, one of his best in years, set just the right tone of wackiness as Russell recounts his misadventures from what appears to be his death bed. Narration is rarely a good thing in movies; it's usually what writers throw in when they're at a loss creatively and/or need to cram in as much exposition as possible. But Ficarra and Requa use Russell's narration to deliver some of the best jokes of the film.
Cheeky and irreverent, yet surprisingly emotionally charged, "I Love You Phillip Morris" is a genre defying romp that was worth the wait.