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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

GUY RAZ: And I'm Guy Raz.

The new con-man movie comedy "I Love You Phillip Morris" starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor has finally come to America. It premiered almost two years ago at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered lots of talk. It since played around the world from London to Hong Kong. It was a smash hit in Latvia. But only now is it opening in the U.S. The reasons for the delay are as intriguing as the true story that inspired the film.

More on that in a moment. But first, Bob Mondello reviews "I Love You Phillip Morris."

BOB MONDELLO: One-time policeman Steven Russell has lived what you might call a storied life. And while being a con man makes him an unreliable narrator for that story, let's let him, played by Jim Carrey, tell at least the story's beginning.

(Soundbite of movie, "I Love You Phillip Morris")

Mr. JIM CARREY (Actor): (As Steven Russell) I used to be a real stand-up guy. I was a good Christian, good father...

Ms. LESLIE MANN (Actress): (As Debbie) Steven.

Mr. CARREY: (As Steven Russell) ...and a great husband. Oh, God. Then one day, something wonderful happened. And in that moment, that instant, it came to me, a revelation - I'm gay.

Ms. MANN: (As Debbie) What?

MONDELLO: Okay. So far, that's more or less the truth. But Steven's taste for the down-low life is matched by his taste for the high life, which costs money. So he starts scamming insurance companies and ends up in prison where, one day, he sees another prisoner, played by Ewan McGregor, looking helplessly at some law books. Opening, as always, with a lie, Steven moves in.

(Soundbite of movie, "I Love You Phillip Morris")

Mr. CARREY: (As Steven Russell) I'm an attorney.

Mr. EWAN MCGREGOR (Actor): (As Phillip Morris) Really?

Mr. CARREY: (As Steven Russell) You suing somebody?

Mr. MCGREGOR: (As Phillip Morris) I don't know what I'm doing.

MONDELLO: There's an opening. Within moments, Steven swept this guy into his confidence and charmed him too.

(Soundbite of movie, "I Love You Phillip Morris")

Mr. MCGREGOR: (As Phillip Morris) Why, thank you.

Mr. CARREY: (As Steven Russell) My name is Steven Russell.

Mr. MCGREGOR: (As Phillip Morris) Nice to meet you, Steven Russell. My name is Phillip Morris.

MONDELLO: "Liar Liar" meets Obi-Wan. Who'da thunk even fearless star power could make these two work as a romantic pair? But both stars are enormous fun in a gay love story played straight in a crooked context - a comic crooked context with lots of physical comedy because that's what Jim Carrey does, and a surprising amount of actual feeling because that's also what Jim Carrey does, though he's not often given credit for it. The result - a love-struck "Catch Me If You Can," in which Steven cons his way out of prison, cons Phillip's way out of prison, and even cons Phillip, who still thinks Steven's on the level even as he comes home frantic with dollar bills spilling out of every pocket.

(Soundbite of movie, "I Love You Phillip Morris")

Mr. MCGREGOR: (As Phillip Morris) People keep calling. What's going on?

Mr. CARREY: (As Steven Russell) Nothing. Probably take a little vacation. Key West? Let's pack. Quick. Okay, I'll pack for you.

Mr. MCGREGOR: (As Phillip Morris) You did somethin'. You lied to me. You looked me right in the eye and you lied!

MONDELLO: All of this would normally be given a certain gravitas by the fact that Steven Russell is a real guy sitting in a real Texas prison. But filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have a great time cutting seriousness with laughs, even as they pull some ingeniously outrageous cons on the audience.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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