A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this based-on-a-true-story black comedy centers on a man (played by Jim Carrey) who leaves his family and becomes an unapologetic con man to support a self-indulgent life of shopping, partying, and sex. He eventually lands in prison, where he falls madly in love with a fellow male inmate. While there’s little nudity (some glimpses of male backsides), there are several highly suggestive sex scenes -- both gay and straight -- and lots of explicit language, including "f--k," "s--t," and some homophobic slurs. The main character's devotion to his object of affection is clear, but the often criminal lengths he goes to for love hardly qualify him for role model of the year.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In this comedy inspired by real-life events, Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a not-so-happily married gay cop who decides it’s time to be true to himself after a car crash. His exit from the closet isn't exactly subtle: He leaves his wife and kids, takes up with a hot Miami guy, and goes on a spending spree fueled by purloined money. Eventually he lands in jail, where he falls madly in love with the titular Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a gentle soul of an inmate, for whom Steven will do anything. When they’re separated from each other and put in different prisons, Steven begins a seemingly endless loop of bailing the pair out of jails under false pretenses, conning an entire company to fund their lifestyle, landing in the slammer once more, and skipping out again. Love knows no bounds -- literally.
Is it any good?
Loopy, frenetic, sometimes annoying, but impressively inventive, this film should be re-titled What I Did for Love -- because that’s exactly what it’s about. The movie showcases Carrey at his zany best (minus the excessive facial tics). Here he’s loose and kinetic, springing between plot points like a man with nothing to lose and all to gain, which is apropos considering the material. You can’t take your eyes off him, even with the charming -- though underdeveloped, character-wise -- McGregor by his side.
Nevertheless, it would be better if the story wasn't quite so slack and untethered; with a tighter script and more delineated arc, I Love You Phillip Morris would be so much easier to love. As it is, it’s an entertaining, albeit aimless, diversion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that the movie is based on a true story. Do you think it's all accurate? Why do you think filmmakers might decide to change certain parts of fact-based stories?
Do you think Steven Russell’s actions, including stealing and deception, demonstrate real love? Parents, talk to your teens about your own family's values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: December 3, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: April 5, 2011
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jim Carrey, Leslie Mann
- Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including strong dialogue, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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