Film Reviews: I Love You Phillip Morris, The Spy Next Door and Old Dogs
New films reviewed by Graham Young and Roz Laws.
I Love You Phillip Morris * * *
Cert 15, 97 mins
This is an odd film, not least because of its ludicrous yet apparently true plot.
Jim Carrey plays model citizen Steven Russell, a Texan police officer, church organist and happily-married father.
But he’s hiding the secret that he’s gay, until a car crash forces an epiphany.
“No more lies,” he declares, brutally ditching his wife and moving to Miami where he gets a tan, a new wardrobe and a handsome boyfriend.
It’s not long before the lies start again, this time of a more serious, law-breaking nature.
To fund his extravagant new lifestyle, he commits a series of cons and credit card and insurance frauds.
He finally gets caught and put in prison, where he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Blond Phillip is shy, sensitive and southern and their romance is rather touching.
Steve’s motto is “I’ll take care of everything,” and he does – even when he’s released, he poses as Phillip’s lawyer to get his lover out too.
Despite vowing to get a real job, Steve scams his way into a high-ranking post in an insurance firm and starts siphoning money off there. Phillip is stupid enough not to question all the cash and the Christmas bonus in July.
Getting caught again is by no means the end for Steve, who amazingly managed to escape custody four times.
My main problem with this film is that I never like Jim Carrey when he’s being manic and wacky, and he’s his usual over-acting, gurning self here.
Another obstacle lies in the film’s tone, as it doesn’t know what it wants to be, veering wildly from con man caper to romance to tragedy to drama to farcical comedy.
The cycle of arrest, escape, arrest and escape gets a bit wearing, even if you have to admire Steve’s ingenuity. I began to lose interest long before the end, although the final twist is clever.
Ultimately, it’s quite hard to root for two fairly unlikeable and selfish characters with terrible haircuts.
Still, I liked McGregor’s convincing performance – he even runs camply – and there are enough funny lines to keep us mildly entertained.
The Spy Next Door * *
Cert PG, 94 mins
He’s one of the few modern actors who have come close to replicating the magic of the silent movie generation.
But Father Time is rapidly catching up on the previously ageless Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong-born action maestro who became a Hollywood star thanks to Rush Hour in 1998.
Now 55, he retains a warmth on screen that makes him impossible to dislike.
Trouble is, this spy-next-door comedy is even creakier at the knees than he is.
Chan plays former CIA spy Bob Ho who pretends to work for a pen company.
Next door, his new love interest Gillian (Amber Valletta) has three children who she thinks will come between them.Naturally, Bob wants to tell her the truth about his real job to give their relationship a chance.
Then he’s predictably called back into service – at the same time that a domestic crisis means Gillian decides to leave her children with him.
Will he be able to bond with the nippers while mum’s away or will the script prove, as the tagline screams, ‘Spying is easy, babysitting is hard’?
Director Brian Levant has the similarly arduous Jingle All The Way and Are We There Yet? to his name and this is hewn straight from the same, rickety old domestic-crisis formula which was never funny the first time round.
A clear reliance on wire stunts and some slightly heavy fight scenes for a PG suggest the game is nearly up.
Old Dogs *
Cert PG, 88 mins
This is easily the worst film of the year so far, and frankly last year too. It is embarrassingly, painfully unfunny. Quite how this dire script managed to attract a pretty good cast is completely beyond me, though the producers clearly promised John Travolta work for all his family – his wife, daughter, brother and sister all appear.
He and Robin Williams play Charlie and Dan, best friends and partners in a sports marketing firm. Vicki (Kelly Preston, aka Mrs Travolta), a woman Dan drunkenly married for 24 hours seven years ago, suddenly turns up, about to go to prison for two weeks. It emerges he’s the father of her twins and there’s no-one else to look after them.
Dan and Charlie are forced to play dad to these horrible children, doing things like taking them camping.
Williams getting a spray tan, in a scene which goes on and on, is possibly the unfunniest thing ever. The ‘jokes’ are lavatorial and juvenile, the plot predictable and the acting lacklustre.
Avoid at all costs.