Ed reviews: 'I Love You Phillip Morris' 


3.5 stars

How in-your-face can a movie get? I Love You Phillip Morris presents the outrageous fact-based adventures of a notorious con man, as told by the guys who made Bad Santa, with echoes of Raising Arizona. And it stars Jim Carrey. Excess piled on excess, starring the King of Excess. Hope you're in the mood.

Con artist extraordinaire Steven Russell is currently behind bars in Texas, serving a ridiculously long sentence (144 years!) for repeatedly treating authority figures the way Bugs Bunny treats Elmer Fudd. At various times he successfully passed himself off as a judge, a doctor, an FBI agent and a lawyer. He became the chief financial officer of a company using phony credentials. He faked a terminal illness. And he escaped from prison over and over – on Friday the 13th, the birthdate of his beloved Phillip Morris.

I Love You Phillip Morris is a gay love story, and if the notion of two men having sex makes you uncomfortable, there's a good chance you'll find yourself squirming as much as two men having sex during a big, sweaty, thrusty scene early in the film that informs the audience of Russell's orientation. Just in case the visuals aren't clear enough, Russell's partner offers a loud verbal description of what the fellows are doing.

Excess piled on excess. I Love You Phillip Morris works best when it's moving along all cheerful and brisk, high on its own audacity. When the movie tries to get serious, it sputters.

Jim Carrey puts his all into the role. How's that for a scary sentence? Steven Russell is a larger-than-life character and Carrey mixes his Serious Actor stylings with his Anything for a Laugh comedic straining. I'm not a fan of Carrey the serious actor – too hammy – and even less of Carrey the comedian, because of his tendency towards leering gooniness. Watching someone trying too hard is grating, and Carrey can really get on my nerves. That said, he does better work here than in most of his films. With Bad Santa filmmakers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra taking the Raising Arizona approach, adding a cartoonish edge is no crime. But watching Carrey as Russell batting his cow eyes while pretending to be terminally ill is pretty hard to watch.

Oh, and the love story is unconvincing. Ewan McGregor offers a mild performance as Phillip Morris, playing the soft-spoken character as a befuddled Southern belle. Russell proclaims his love for Morris and the two are given to broadly theatrical displays of their romance, but for the most part, it appears that Russell is mostly in love with the idea of being in a grand love affair, and that Morris is swept up by all the attention and fuss.

I Love You Phillip Morris is big fun when it serves as a spirited illustration of a real-life tall tale. The over-the-top parts work. It's the little, human moments that don't.


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What others are saying (9)

Colorado Springs Independent A queer gem: I Love You Phillip Morris The real Steven Russell, if he weren't presently serving a 144-year sentence, would be proud. by Tricia Olszewski 01/13/2011
Boise Weekly I Love You, Phillip Morris (Even If The U.S. Didn't) I Love You, Phillip Morris almost didn't see the inside of U.S. theaters by Jordan Wilson 04/13/2011
Boise Weekly The Projector Spend Christmas Eve with Stiller, DeNiro, Firth, Black, Bridges and Matt Damon 12/24/2010
6 more reviews...
Charleston City Paper Phillip Morris is more than a homoerotic Catch Me If You Can With I Love You Phillip Morris, Ace Ventura and young Obi-Wan are in love for reals. In an introduction echoing Sunset Boulevard, Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey) calmly states from a hospital bed, "Love is the reason I'm laying here dying." From there, we retrace Russell's life, from his childhood as an adopted kid looking at cloud-shaped penises to his days as a policeman, with a lightning quickness that sweeps the viewer into the film's narrative. The hyper-speed montage screeches to a halt at two points: When he finds and is dismissed by his birth mom and when Russell is in the middle of an extramarital booty-bumping interlude. Your eyebrows can't help but raise when his partner lifts his head into the frame and tells Russell to unload in his rectum. All this while Russell waves his arms around like a cowboy. by Kevin Young 01/05/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week The Green Hornet, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Dilemma 01/13/2011
East Bay Express Toe to Toe: Black Swan and I Love You Phillip Morris Freaked-out ballerina Natalie Portman, meet fun gay prison-inmate couple Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. by Kelly Vance 12/01/2010
Portland Mercury Love Stinks I Love You Phillip Morris wears out its welcome. by Ned Lannamann 12/16/2010
Chicago Reader Hey, His Brain's Up Here For their directorial debut, I Love You Phillip Morris, the writers of Bad Santa turn the tale of a brilliant con man into a series of gay gags. by J.R. Jones 12/09/2010
Indy Week It's good that somebody loves Phillip Morris Phillip Morris generally succeeds as a satirical farce of middle-class mores; the explicit sex scenes nearly take care of that by themselves. by Neil Morris 12/22/2010

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