Title: I Love You Phillip Morris
Directors: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown, David Jensen
Just about everyone has heard the phrase, “Don’t mess with Texas.” Apparently, Steven Russell didn’t get that memo. He not only messed with Texas, he thoroughly embarrassed the lone star state time and time again. The manner in which he forges his way through life in this 102 minute feature titled I Love You Phillip Morris, has Hollywood scripting written all over it. But here’s the catch…This story really happened.
Based on the exploits of con man extraordinaire – a.k.a. “King Con” – Phillip Morris is a comedic portrayal that summarizes Steven’s story in the same vein as last year’s The Informant!. The tone is all over the place, leading the audience to question what they should or shouldn’t be laughing at. After doing some fact-checking, this flick from comedy writers/directors Glen Ficcara & John Requa (Bad Santa, Bad News Bears), actually covers all the pertinent points from the true tale. They also mesh in timely embellishments in an attempt to keep this flick lively for the viewer.
Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is quite simply a pathological liar. He also may be the best liar of all-time. For one, he is married to the Jesus adoring Debbie (Leslie Mann) and has a child with her. Which is fine except for the fact that he’s gay. The one honest element in his life is that he serves as deputy for a small town in Texas during the 90’s. After getting into a car accident, the guy has an epiphany. He wants to live life without any boundaries. To make that happen, he becomes a fraud across the board. Steven leaves Debbie and begins pulling scams and lying his way through corporate America. Due to the volume of his exploits, he naturally gets caught and sent to the state penitentiary.
While in prison, he brushes up on all the law literature found in the library. By altering documents and making fraudulent calls, he manages to escape. Once he’s out, Steven picks up right where he left off by applying for CFO positions with prominent companies. And he gets hired. Once he learns the ropes, he finds numerous ways to scam whatever company failed to do a proper background check. Even if they did one, Steven is a step-ahead of them with phony references and documents. Eventually, he gets caught and sent back to the pen. This time, he meets the love of his life in Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Knowing that he can’t live without him, he manages to use his cerebral powers – and new found law knowledge – in springing Phillip as well. He goes to the well once again and manages to score another high paying gig at a major corporation. Living large with Phillip just isn’t enough though. Phillip wants him to stop the scams. Steven wants to just be with Phillip, but he loves scamming the world. The question of whether Steven can have it all puts everything he’s “worked” for in danger.
The one aspect that long-time fans of Jim Carrey will dig is that he is having fun with the character. Carrey ironically brings a little bit of his Liar, Liar character into this light-hearted take on Steven. He is fully animated to the point where certain scenes seem farcical. Which is the intent. The introduction of McGregor’s character adds the dramatic touch to help balance this outlandish story. One of the acts in this screenplay is solely devoted to exploring the relationship between “Steven” and “Phillip.” And let’s just say it’s Brokeback Mountain detailed. Seeing this new side of Carrey and McGregor, one would expect some awkwardness. Yet, these guys were game for the roles and seem to pull it off (no pun intended) effortlessly.
Although the story is tough to wrap your head around (again, no pun intended), the acting is superb and keeps one involved in the repetitive script. There is a point after the climax where the flick drags, and the product resembles someone beating a joke to death, to the point where it just isn’t funny and/or interesting anymore. Having said that, knowing that this really happened in some sense enhances the experience and intrigue. One would swear this is fiction but doing the research like our main character, enables this jumbled mess to deliver a decent story.
Overall, I Love You Phillip Morris is harmless and brings in a few daring moments the audience may fawn over thanks to the performances of Carrey and McGregor. The script doesn’t wield a ton of entertaining weapons, but the fact that this tale actually happened keeps one involved. Best advice…Turn off the logic meter in your head.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5