WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

    No Rating Available

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

"Love sure is a funny thing," Steven Russell drawls in a voiceover as he lies dying on a hospital gurney at the outset of I Love You Phillip Morris. "It makes you happy. It makes you sad. It makes you do all kinds of things." Any and/or all of those sentiments could be nominated for "Understatement of the Year" awards in what is among the most jarringly, bizarrely sexually explicit two hours of tragidramedy ever put to film.

I Love You Phillip Morris chronicles the unlikely real-life odyssey of one Steven Russell. Ten minutes into it, we come to realize that two things shape Steven's identity. One: He is gay. Two: He is a liar. Both are Olympic-level character traits. When we first meet him, though, neither is apparent. Steven is merely muddling through a pedestrian life. He plays piano and praises God at church. He's married to an effusive, big-haired woman from Texas. He's a conscientious police officer.

But we soon learn that Steven, who was adopted, only became a police officer in order to track down his biological mother (who rejects him when he finally finds her). His marriage and faith are shams, too, and a car crash after a homosexual tryst serves as the catalyst for him to confess his double life. "No more lies," he says. "I'm gonna be the real me. Do what I want. F‑‑‑ who I want. … I'm gonna be a fag!"

Goodbye wife, daughter, church and badge. Hello Miami … and the most gay-centric lifestyle he can orchestrate. There's only one problem, Steven says: "Being gay is really expensive."

To finance his flamboyance, Steven initiates one con after another, faking accidents and collecting fat insurance checks. Eventually, though, his "luck" runs out as his sexual partner, Jimmy, dies of AIDS and Steven gets arrested.

What would seem to be the end of the story, however, is merely the beginning. In prison, Steven meets a new flame: Phillip Morris, a fragile, porcelain naïf who is as devoid of guile as Steven is shot through with it. Steven is smitten and determines to get both of them get out of prison. He determines to protect and provide for Phillip at any cost.

So his cons amp up to utterly unbelievable levels—except that they're based on a true story. Steven becomes CFO of a Texas corporation. He poses as a lawyer. And after he and Phillip go back to prison for embezzling millions, Steven fakes his own death from AIDS … then returns to prison and court as Phillip's lawyer in a bid to free him.

Advertisement

Positive Elements

As more mainstream movies feature storylines revolving around homosexual characters in marriage-like relationships, disclaimers become more and more useful in this section of Plugged In's reviews. So I'll repeat the one I inserted into The Kids Are All Right: "Since the plot pivots on the unstated assumption that a long-term relationship between two same-sex partners is both normative and acceptable, any positivity surrounding that assumption has to be divorced from it."

Steven can't stop lying, scamming and conning. But he is genuinely compelled to care for Phillip. When Phillip fully realizes just how fake Steven's entire professional life is, he leaves him. Phillip rightly tells Steven that he can't be in a relationship with a person who's so utterly deceptive. Phillip also states that he has no idea who Steven really is, and he suggests that Steven has no idea of his own identity underneath all the lies either.

Throughout the film, Steven remains in contact with his ex-wife, Debbie. She has forgiven him for abandoning her, and encourages him to give up his deceptive ways and to trust Jesus. (More on that in "Spiritual Content.") Steven's odd, ongoing relationship with Debbie is more than perfunctory, though. Even as he ignores (and at times mocks) her advice, he values the fact that she knows exactly who he is and still holds on to hope that he can change.

At one point, Steven sends Debbie and their daughter a huge sum of ill-gotten cash for Christmas. Debbie refuses it. Early on, Steven is shown tenderly and affectionately tucking his daughter in to sleep.

Spiritual Content

The film opens with Steven playing piano in church as the choir sings. Shortly thereafter, Steven and Debbie pray before bed. She thanks God for an assorted list of mundane blessings (finding coffee filters, a negative allergy test) before waxing effusive in her praise for Steven. "Thank you for this man, Jesus," she says, before talking about how he passionately pursued her and how he's brought her "eternal happiness."

Debbie's faith is little more than a satirical caricature, and her primary role in the movie is to generate a few fringe laughs. But she doesn't know that, if you can split storytelling hairs that finely. To her, her faith is earnest and real, and she keeps talking about Jesus in conversations with Steven even after he leaves her. At one point she tells him that his choices are "not what the Lord wants." Elsewhere she exhorts, "Jesus has a plan"—an assertion Steven mocks.

A cabbie asks Steven if he can share with him the "Word of Jesus Christ." Then he begins by quoting Psalm 23:6: "Surely goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life." At the end of the ride, the driver is still reciting memorized verses to Steven.

Sexual Content

Steven and Debbie have sex. Movement is seen under the covers while they carry on a casual conversation. Another scene pictures them kissing passionately in front of others.

The scene in which we learn that Steven is cheating on his wife with men happens immediately after that prolonged kiss. We see Steven's bare chest and sexual movements, and we're obviously meant to think he's with Debbie again. Then the camera pans down to reveal that he's with a man, who proceeds to shout profane, extraordinarily explicit instructions.

Steven and Phillip kiss several times. They hug, cuddle and are otherwise affectionate. Two instances of oral sex are implied by just-out-of-frame motion. Steven gives a detailed commentary on one of the encounters. The other concludes with one of the men spitting over the side of a boat.

There are also a half-dozen crude, graphic references to oral sex (mostly in the context of how to get what you want in prison). An explicit conversation revolves around sex-position preferences.

Voiceover narration from Steven tells us he's always known he was a homosexual. And a flashback to his childhood shows him commenting on a cloud's phallic shape. On a financial report, Steven sketches cartoonish penises. He goes to a gay dance club, where men dance provocatively in various states of undress.

Violent Content

Steven's Corvette gets violently broadsided in an intersection, and he's bloodied by the impact. Later, he jumps from a hospital rooftop, hoping to land in a full dumpster. He doesn't. We see him unconscious in a pool of blood. A montage of Steven's cons show him "accidentally" falling at various businesses.

Several brutal prison beatdowns get screen time. Steven tells a newcomer that you have to fight to earn respect. We hear an inmate being beaten by guards. To get to the infirmary, Steven has a fellow inmate strike him in the face, producing a deep cut. When Steven arranges for a man in Phillip's cell block who makes awful noises at night to be horrifically beaten in order to shut him up, Phillip says that its the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for him.

A flashback shows Steven's dad hitting his brother when the boy blurts out that Steven was adopted. Phillip slaps Steven twice.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 50 f-words. Ten s-words. A half-dozen abuses of God's name and one of Jesus'. "Fag" or "faggot" are used six or seven times. Harsh slang terms reference male and female anatomy. About 25 other vulgarities include "a‑‑," "a‑‑hole," "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

In a suicide attempt, Steven swallows prescription meds and ends up hospitalized. An attempt to escape custody involves him swiping Phillip's insulin and shooting syringes full of it into himself in a police car (resulting in another hospitalization). Characters imbibe beer at a party and at a dance club. Another gathering features champagne.

Other Negative Elements

Steven's parents say they "adopted" him by giving his mother money in the hospital parking lot. When Steven tries to talk to his biological mother, telling her, "I forgive you," she slams the door and yells, "Go away." Steven waves her front door welcome mat and shouts, "This is a lie."

And virtually everything Steven does after that point is a lie as well.

Guards may as well not even lock the door on Steven's cell. He manipulates the system so efficiently that he can get virtually anything he wants from the outside, and he repeatedly finds ways to forge important legal documents that help him get out. Once, he uses ink from a ballpoint pen to dye his prison fatigues to look like a medical orderly … and then just walks free.

Steven's most audacious con involves pretending to be dying of AIDS. He starves himself for months and forges documents suggesting that he has the disease. Then he gets himself transferred to a fictional AIDS research hospice, fakes his own death and shows up in court as Phillip's lawyer.

Conclusion

It's safe to say that Jim Carrey's portrayal of Steven Russell is utterly unlike anything he's ever done. And he's played some pretty outrageous, erratic characters in his time.

Writing for the U.K.'s Daily Mail, reviewer Chris Tookey put it this way: "Some people will flinch at the gay sex scenes, which are surprisingly explicit for a mainstream comedy. But you don't need to be homophobic to hate Carrey's character. … This is the kind of desperately sad, would-be offbeat movie that A-list stars make only when their career is on the skids. It's a horrifyingly misjudged mix of comedy and drama, caper flick and romance, middle-of-the-road Hollywood product and raunchy sex comedy. Jaw-droppingly unfunny and morally despicable, it doesn't work on any level."

Steven describes his motivation for becoming a cop—finding his birth mother—as "not right or moral." That summary does double duty for the rest of the film.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!