With uneven if generally charming results, Bad Santa writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s directorial debut I Love You Phillip Morris straddles the fine line between outrageous farce and heartfelt romance. Based on a true story so unbelievable that the intro credits must restate the fact that “it really did” happen, the film charts the unlikely affair between habitual con man Steven (Jim Carrey) and sweet boy-toy Phillip (Ewan McGregor) while in prison. Steven is in the clink for insurance fraud scams pulled after he abandoned his religious wife and daughter for a luxurious homo Florida lifestyle, which drove him to crime because, as he quickly realizes, “being gay is really expensive.” Despite a life defined by lies to himself and others, Steven genuinely falls for the honest Phillip, and in a surprising twist, Ficarra and Requa don’t treat their protagonists’ super-squishy feelings for each other as a crass joke, but as authentic emotions to be treated with respect. That attitude makes I Love You Phillip Morris more than just a bit of crime-caper silliness, albeit not that much more, since the writer/directors frequently balance their earnest portrait of Steven and Phillip’s romance with lots of ribald gay-related humor (blowjobs figure prominently) and Steven’s incessant scamming, which comes to involve multiple prison breaks, an accounting swindle with a medical company, and a fake AIDS diagnosis. Given that its all in service of making his partner happy, Steven’s deceitfulness is treated as a manifestation of his amour, but that doesn’t alter the fact that Steven’s schemes are often more clever than laugh-out-loud funny, and lacking the true impropriety of Bad Santa’s best bits. Consequently, the film never quite establishes a consistent sleazy-and-sweet tone, although it is bolstered by a sterling Jim Carrey performance that comically and sincerely captures the exuberant madness of love.