JIM CARREY has always struck me as being something like a precocious but needy child, one that so desperately craves love and attention that he's been contorting himself through his entire career, overacting his way into as many hearts as can possibly stand him. Sometimes this works in the audience's favor, but other times he's just overbearing. This time around, Carrey's hamming his way through a fact-based homosexual love story with a streak of black humor, courtesy of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (writers of Bad Santa). But whatever promise I Love You Phillip Morris holds is squandered by the end of its running time, as—like Carrey—the movie simply wears out its welcome.
Carrey plays Steven Russell, a con artist who's pretty much lied about everything in his life, including his sexuality to his devout Christian wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann). Eventually he lands in prison, where he falls in love with Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a gentle Southern boy who needs all the protection he can get. The filmmakers want us to take their ensuing romance seriously, while at the same time playing for laughs the idea of a love story set against the absurd backdrop of a prison. It's a double standard that permeates every element of the movie: I think we're meant to like Carrey's character—Carrey definitely wants us to like him—but Steven is such a ridiculous person, and lies so frequently, that he's mostly an indefensible scoundrel.
This movie cheats, and I'll be pretty spoiler-y here: There's a long, extended sequence of a character descending to disease, which is a tough slog to sit through, but then the movie doubles back on itself and attempts to play it for laughs. The ploy fails utterly, since neither the movie nor Carrey are as likeable as they would have you believe them to be.