Special to The Dagger
Movie Review: “I Love You Phillip Morris”
First off, this isn’t a movie about Phillip Morris the cigarette company. The only thing smoking is the man-on-man romance, which is going to alienate some viewers. Unfortunately, that plot point will cause some viewers to miss a fairly clever comedy.
Steven Russel (Jim Carrey) is a model citizen, a local policeman with a wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann), a daughter, and an ideal life. Involved in a near-fatal car crash, Steven reassesses his life, and decides to stop living a lie and openly admit his homosexuality. His reemergence requires him to break the law as he attempts to maintain an opulent life style. Arrested for fraud, Steven finds himself in jail where he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) who becomes the love of his life. His devotion leads him to attempt increasingly impossible cons.
Jim Carrey seems to have finally wrestled control away from Fire Marshall Bill and successfully navigates the thin line between comedy and drama that has eluded him in previous films. Ewan McGregor pulls off a show-stopping performance in what may be the most underrated yet believable portrayals of a gay man. The supporting cast is extremely strong and the writing is sharp and on point.
To label this film as a movie for the gay community is somewhat disingenuous. Here’s my problem. The gay element in this film could have been replaced by a straight relationship and nothing in the writing would have changed. It stinks of “we’re making an indie comedy, so let’s make the characters gay!” We get it, you non-conformers! If you are going to introduce this thematic element, use it as a vehicle to add to the film. As it is, it is only an extra hole waiting to be filled.
While that served as the biggest distraction, the film moves quickly and actually is laugh-out-loud funny. It is really a great heist film masquerading as a gay comedy.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it. One of the better comedies this year and the guys only kiss two or three times, no tongue.
THREE STARS out of four.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Written by John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, and Steve McVicker.
Rated R for sexual content including strong dialogue, and language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 min
Movie Review: “Little Fockers”
In the third installment of the Fockers franchise, familiar territory is covered with new cast members as well as old favorites.
Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is now the proud parent of two little Fockers with wife Pam (Teri Polo). When he takes on additional work as a spokesman for a drug company to create financial security for the kids’ future leads father-in-law Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) to bring back old suspicions. With the entire clan and Pam’s ex Kevin (Owen Wilson) descending for the twin’s birthday party, Greg must prove that he is worthy of being Jack’s successor as family patriarch.
The best aspect of this movie is that it doesn’t deviate significantly from the previous two films. The characters all will behave in the same way and find themselves in similarly bizarre comedic situations. But for all their star power, the cast seems to be stretching the script for all it’s worth trying to make it work. Jessica Alba makes a strong appearance as a representative for the drug company that attempts to have an affair with Greg. She brings a slapstick angle that is refreshing. Owen Wilson, on the other hand, rehashes his spiritual character from “Zoolander” with limited success while making passive aggressive advances on Pam.
Ultimately, the script and the cast try desperately to create drama and tension that never materializes because there is little depth to any of the characters. The writers attempted to overcome this shortcoming by throwing more star power on the screen. At this point, we’ve devolved into “Look Who’s Talking” sequel territory: the next film could feature Roseanne Barr doing a voice-over for a dog the Fockers adopt, with John Travolta making a guest appearance as a long-lost uncle.
Stiller, who is coming off one of his best performances in “Tropic Thunder,” still pulls off his old lead role with ease. But he should strongly consider putting more creative influence into any future Focker films. The difference between projects he writes and directs and everything else he does is vast.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: Skip it. Please make this stop.
ONE AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Greg Glienna, Mary Ruth Clarke, Jim Herzfeld, Marc Hyman, Jim Herzfeld, John Hamburg, Glenn Ficarra, and Steve McVicker.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a brief drug reference.
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 min