If there was a clamour for a sequel to Jim Carrey’s 2003 vanity project, Bruce Almighty, then I’m ashamed to say I missed it. Those that still believe in that movie, though the evidence for its existence looks increasingly threadbare as the years pass, will remember the blood curdling scene in which God, played by Morgan Freeman, told Carrey that making people laugh was his gift to the world.
Subsequent to release, the World Cinema Court (WCC) in Paris formally classified that scene as a film crime. Nevertheless, despite the original film’s cloying sentimentality, broad humour and gurning, in what may have been director Tom Shadyac’s conscious embracing of the gestural acting that characterised the silent era, four years later there was, gifted unto us, a sequel.
Perhaps, reasoned the moneymen, $484m worldwide couldn’t be considered a misfire and so a new testament was ordered whether we wanted it or not. When the WCC launched an investigation into the original film’s success they concluded that the personality cult of Jim Carrey as well as the film’s wholesale adoption of Judaeo-Christian myth, had played well with audiences. However, returning director Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk had a problem. Carrey’s character arc, no pun intended, was complete and even if he could be persuaded to return, he’d be expensive. What to do?
What was done was to promote Steve Carell, a bit part player in the first film, to the lead. His star had been in the ascendant in the intervening years and he’d remind audiences of the Carrey movie, thereby establishing continuity and pulling in franchise returnees. This wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, Carell can mug and shout with the best of them, but this stuff is wired into Carrey’s DNA, whereas the more muted and notably less rubbery Carell didn’t seem so comfortable. In franchise terms this was a little like Jerry Reed’s promotion in Smokey and the Bandit 3 – the film missed its awful leading man of old.
Despite it having no reason to exist other than to yank on the cash cow’s teats and teach the book of Genesis to five year olds, albeit with a modern day political corruption subplot grafted on to make the biblical flood more, er, relevant, Evan Almighty is simple, throwaway entertainment that never threatens to trouble adult viewers.
The title is something of a misnomer because Evan, unlike his predecessor Bruce, has no God like powers at all. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that the connection between the two films would be less obvious if they gave it an appropriate name, like Evan’s Ark for example, still, let’s not ask too many questions, for God’s sake.
God, it seems, is recruiting from a very small pool of news anchors. As we rejoin Evan, he’s leaving his TV job from the first film and entering the world of politics as a US congressman. Relocating to Washington with his Stepford wife and Gee Willikers kids in tow, Evan encounters fellow legislator John Goodman who’s anxious to get the new man to support his new land owning bill, and God, who tells him that a flood is on the way and he should prepare by building an Ark.
Fans of the original film will find much to enjoy, though they really shouldn’t and it would be morally indefensible to encourage them. This is family filmmaking 101, complete with many of the themes burrowed from Shadyac’s other mawkish mega-hit, Liar Liar.
Evan’s not a great father, he’s neglectful and work focused, much as Carrey was in his falsehood fest, so inevitably the story focuses on familial restoration and moral virtue. Will Evan’s actions put him into direct conflict with his family only for events to bring them together and leave them stronger at the close? The inevitable, depressing answer, is yes. Can the audience hope to learn a lesson about dishonesty and civic virtue? You bet they can. Will geologists have an aneurysm when they see God telling Evan that his valley has remained unchanged since the time of its creation…by him? You bet they will.
As the film builds toward its CGI saturated climax, many questions arise, none of which are destined to be answered. These include, was bird shit ever funny? Must Carrell’s black secretary be a jive talkin’ stereotype? If God will give Evan anything he needs to build his ark, why in Freeman’s name doesn’t the feckless gibbon just order a team of Scottish shipbuilders? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, where do all Evan’s animals come from when most aren’t indigenous to the United States? Did they escape from Zoos or travel to see him from the four corners of the Earth, and if that’s true how did they purchase the means to travel, or for that matter find an operator who’d let them on? In fact, when the purpose of the ark is to save the locals from a flood, why are they there at all?
With the exception of a pair of decent one liners, Evan Almighty is a busted flush. Much of it makes no sense, not least God’s decision to physically change Evan into a likeness of Noah. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that the kids who’d watch the flick wouldn’t understand the allusion to Genesis unless their man wore robes and had a long beard. If that’s true then it’s part and parcel of the irony that underpins the whole enterprise, namely that when it came to retelling this bible story, Shadyac and co. didn’t have any faith in their audience.
It brushes up well enough in 1080p and the Blu-ray transfer certainly shows off the film’s colourful palate, but how much detail do you really want on something like this?
None included with the review disc.
Evan Almighty is released on Blu-ray from tomorrow.
This article was first posted on March 20, 2011