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I Love You Phillip Morris DVD Review

I Love You Phillip Morris (2010) movie poster I Love You Phillip Morris

Theatrical Release: December 3, 2010 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Directors: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra / Writers: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra (screenplay); Steve McVicker (book)

Cast: Jim Carrey (Steven Russell), Ewan McGregor (Phillip Morris), Leslie Mann (Debbie), Rodrigo Santoro (Jimmy), Antoni Corone (Dan Lindholm), Brennan Brown (Larry Birkheim), Michael Mandell (Cleavon), Annie Golden (Eudora), Mary Louise Burke (Barbara Bacsombe), David Jensen (Judge), Dameon Clarke (Houston Lawyer), Clay Chamberlin (Cellmate Arnie), Louis Herthum (Doctor), Donovan Guidry (The Moustached Man)

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Jim Carrey doesn't appear to be the huge box office draw he was years ago, but he's still one of the bigger names in big screen comedy. As such, one notices when Carrey does something other than the PG-13 vehicles with which he instantly rose to fame in the mid-1990s.
I'm not referring to his made-up, motion capture, and voiceover work in family-friendly adaptations like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Series of Unfortunate Events, A Christmas Carol, and Horton Hears a Who!. Such films may or may not utilize Carrey's signature rubber-faced talents; either way, recognizable properties like those find an audience.

Beyond them, the actor has picked some projects you wouldn't expect of him, which tend to perform modestly in theaters whether warmly received (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) or not (The Number 23). Carrey's latest film, the R-rated independent comedy I Love You Phillip Morris, gave him by far his all-time lowest gross ever as a leading man, with a barely $2 million domestic total that, even ignoring over twenty years of inflation, pales next to Earth Girls Are Easy's 1989 take. It should be pointed out that Phillip Morris, which has absolutely nothing to do with the similarly-named international tobacco company, only played in 100 theaters nationwide, a third as many as Earth Girls.

One doesn't second-guess the limited release approach taken on Phillip, but that raises the question of why. As a charming scoundrel, Carrey is playing to type. Though dealing with crime and punishment, the movie is not really that dark a comedy. And those numbers weren't bad for the theater count; they could have been the start of a gradual rollout. Perhaps the biggest reason why the movie didn't expand more is because it centers on a homosexual romance.

Inmates Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) and Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) fall for one another over the law books of the prison library in "I Love You Phillip Morris."

Carrey plays Steven Russell, a Virginia Beach sheriff with a wife (Leslie Mann) and young daughter (Alyssa Tate). He's got a secret, though: he's gay and acting on those feelings. A car accident causes him to come out of the closet, which liberates him personally but threatens him financially. Being gay, he explains, is expensive. To have the kind of money required of his fashionable new lifestyle, Steven becomes a con man, dabbling in credit card schemes and insurance fraud. The latter gets him arrested and sentenced to a Texas prison, where he meets the titular object of his affections (Ewan McGregor), a sensitive Southern naif whose prolonged car rental earned him a theft of service conviction.

It's love at first sight for the two men, and Steven uses his shrewd instincts to demonstrate his feelings for Phillip, getting them assigned to the same jail cell (where the top bunk goes unused) and arranging for a noisy neighbor to stop keeping them up at night. Even when they are separated and forced to communicate by a written note exchange network, it's not long until a sketchily bailed Steven poses as Phillip's lawyer to secure his release.

On the outside, life is good for the two lovers, and Steven fudges his way into a new job at a medical insurance company. There, he seizes an opportunity to become secretly wealthy, accruing interest on briefly dormant funds to the tune of millions of dollars. Steven's trails of paper and lies catch up to him, putting him on the run and also threatening unwitting Phillip with accomplice status.

Beat but not beaten, Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) plans his next move from the back seat of a police car. Leslie Mann, the third household name in the cast, plays Steven's Christian ex-wife Debbie.

I Love You Phillip Morris opens with the claim "This really happened", followed by "It really did." That seems to excuse writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Bad Santa, Cats & Dogs) for the haphazard structure and dizzying logic of this far-fetched film that marks their directorial debut. Adopted Steven finds his birth mother in a bit that goes nowhere. He commits one white-collar crime after another,
improbably falling upward into a successful unlicensed legal career and a bizarrely lucrative embezzlement gig. Research reveals that Requa and Ficarra are playing less loosely with the facts than anyone would guess, and what true-life comedy doesn't embellish a little?

The film falters not from fabricated storytelling but from low entertainment value. The revelation that Steven is gay comes ten minutes in, with him in the throes of sweaty anal sex. That sense of humor, designed as much to shock as to amuse is what soured Bad Santa and what renders this a pretty joyless affair as well. That Steven and Phillip are gay is not incidental; it's a running joke. Gay people are funny is what the film seems to reiterate throughout, implying that only uncomfortable homophobes won't be laughing. But you needn't be prejudiced not to enjoy the sight of men frequently getting sexual. The crude gags wouldn't be any more or less funny if one was a woman.

As in any story, this one's characters are not meant to reflect human behavior at large and it's possible (though doubtful) that the film is doing justice to the real personalities it's based on. Still, one can't help but cringe at the portrayal of gay men as mesh-pantied sex fanatics always locking lips and quick to unzip one another's fly. If there was more to the central relationship than these broad jokes, it might feel like the film was having a laugh with gay people, instead of at them, but this is a comedy, and for an independent comedy, it has a bare minimum of drama and pathos. Requa and Ficarra fare no better with most other targets, such as Mann's devout Christian wife, a short-tempered black inmate, a sermonizing cab driver, and a frustrating sand trap.

Carrey tries hard, but can't earn his con artist protagonist sympathy and a tasteless climactic twist should eliminate any audience good will developed before it. McGregor does not lend his love interest much depth, suggesting that the chance to act across from Jim Carrey and recycle his adequate Southern accent were incentive enough to sign on.

I Love You Phillip Morris premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in January 2009 and proceeded to open in many parts of the world throughout 2010. After several missed dates and delays, the film finally made its American debut in December from acquirer Roadside Attractions, whose video partner Lionsgate brings the movie to DVD and Blu-ray this week.

I Love You Phillip Morris DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $27.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)
and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though it's a reasonably low-budget film ($13 million), I Love You Phillip Morris looks terrific on DVD. Lionsgate's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is perfectly clean, sharp, and detailed. It's tough to imagine the Blu-ray's higher resolution adding much over this fantastic standard definition presentation. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is more noticeable and satisfying than a typical comedy. Steven's narration is a commanding center channel presence, while atmosphere and other dialogue fill out the soundfield to nice effect. This isn't immersive like sci-fi action, but it's livelier than most movies.

Writers/directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra talk about "The Making of 'I Love You Phillip Morris." Jim Carrey gets a couple of more chances to be dramatic and intimate in the deleted scenes reel. Leonard (Jim Carrey) embraces his newly-revealed gayness alongside an open-shirted Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro) on the DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Extras begin with a filmmaker audio commentary by writers/directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, producers Andrew Lazar and Far Shariat, director of photography Xavier Pιrez Grobet, and chief lightning technician Max Pomerleau. Assembling six speakers ensures few lulls and little chance that you'll know who's talking at any given time.
This full discussion reveals some minutiae about the film (like obviously CGI penis clouds) and the true story it's based on. The group likes to point out things they could only get away with on an independent film. It's a mediocre track from which little of note is shared.

"The Making of I Love You Phillip Morris (11:50) is a pretty standard featurette, which complements the usual talking heads bits with some candid on-set footage. Perhaps its most distinctive features are giving a lot of time to distant fourth-billed actor Rodrigo Santoro and letting Ewan McGregor briefly talk about meeting the real Phillip Morris.

Next up is a reel of seven deleted scenes, running 16 minutes and 45 seconds. There are a few additional exchanges between Steven and Jimmy (Santoro) plus an unfinished scene of Steven and Phillip weathering a storm at sea. Nothing too remarkable surfaces here from the cutting room floor.

Rounding out the discs are a red band internet trailer (2:41), a green band theatrical trailer (2:26), and a red band theatrical trailer (2:32), all of which promote the film in similar ways, only with racier bits in tact on the red band previews.

The disc opens with oddly-chosen trailers for Good Hair, My Best Friend's Girl, Mystery Tea, and The Winning Season. This lot is repeated by the menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing.

The animated main menu pops characters, objects, and places up and down in a field to an excerpt of the film's instrumental theme that goes silent after two iterations.

The standard black Eco-Box keepcase is topped by a redundant cardboard slipcover with no inserts.

Bottom bunk buddies Steven (Jim Carrey) and Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) enjoy blowing bubbles in their unforeseen final moment as cellmates. Steven (Jim Carrey) narrates most of the film from his hospital deathbed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I Love You Phillip Morris is fast, easy, and ultimately unsatisfying viewing. Reading up on the real facts of this bizarre story is more fulfilling than watching the film and that is the result of both jumbled storytelling and comedy as determined to shock as to entertain. While it's interesting to see Jim Carrey outside his comfort zone, there's even less entertainment to be had here than in his average star vehicle.

With a terrific feature presentation and a perfectly ordinary collection of extras, Lionsgate's DVD gets the job done better than the film it holds.

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Related Reviews:
New: Black Swan • Taxi Driver (Blu-ray) • Made in Dagenham • How Do You Know • Tangled
Starring Jim Carrey: Yes Man • A Christmas Carol • Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
Featuring Ewan McGregor: The Men Who Stare at Goats • Angels & Demons • Valiant
Featuring Leslie Mann: Funny People • Knocked Up • 17 Again • Drillbit Taylor
The Hoax • Middle Men • The Wendell Baker Story • Stone • Jack Goes Boating • Knight and Day
The Kids Are All Right • Bruno • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest • I Love You, Man • Easy A

I Love You Phillip Morris Songs List (in order of use): The Yellowdog Prophet Choir - "Hallelujah, We Shall Rise", "Happy Birthday to You", Devotchka- "I Cried Like a Silly Boy", Jonny Savarino - "It's You and Me Tonight", Enzo y Su Clan - "El Arroz", Wang Chung - "Dance Hall Days", "Deck the Halls", Linda Lawley, Bill Mitchell and Danny Pelfrey - "Jingle Bells", Johnny Mathis - "Chances Are", Studio Musicians - "Vibe Time", Nina Simone - "To Love Somebody", Steven Lane Ivey - "God and Prayer", Golden Gate Quartet - "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen", Studio Musicians - "Shopping Mall", Alien Six - "On My Mind", Foghat - "Slow Ride", Kully B & Gussy G - "Koffee n Kreem", Joel Evans & Friends - "Dancing in Sunshine (inst.)", Chucho Merchan - "Techno Latino", Sammi Smith - "Help Me Make It Through the Night", Robbie Dupree - "Steal Away", Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin - "Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro / Duettino-Sull'aria"

I Love You Phillip Morris: Original Soundtrack Composed by Nick Urata:
Download from iTunes • Download MP3s from Amazon.com • Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed April 4, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 LD Entertainment, Roadside Attractions, Europa Corp., Mad Chance Production and 2011 Lionsgate.
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