July 03, 2007

Evan Almighty is Simply Alrighty

Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman, was hilarious. When given God-like powers, Carrey manages to use his powers for the mundane and silly before realizing so many in the world need their prayers answered and that always giving people what they want may not be the best thing. While Carrey could be seen enhancing his girlfriend's bosom, or teaching his dog to sit on the toilet, in the sequel, Evan Almighty, now led by Office funnyman Steve Carell, is almost all business in his new role as Noah, charged with building an ark to protect his hometown from a promised flood. Unlike "Bruce", "Evan" is overly religious, and the near-preachiness of the story, at least for me, seemed to sap some of its potential.

Some spoilers ahead... you have been warned...

Evan Baxter, who we last left as a newscaster at the local anchor desk, has now successfully run for Congress, and is moving out of the small town and into the rich suburbs, much to the concern of his wife and kids. After he prays to "Change the world", God turns him into a modern-day incarnation of Noah, down to the long white beard, and acting as a magnet for two of every kind of animal, to find shelter in the ark. Unlike "Bruce", which saw Carrey aloof in his brush with deity, the "Evan" movie is rife with references to Genesis 6:14, and commonly known elements of the Noah story, like the appearance of two doves, one of whom fetches an olive branch at the conclusion of the film to show all is well, as the proverbial rainbow shines in the background.

In the movie, we can understand the stresses of a freshman representative who has to choose between home life and a career, and Evan's trying to escape this new assignment from God, through denial and in other scenes, through physical escape from the plague of animals that won't leave him alone. We understand when his wife and kids, as well as the local media, think he's a nutcase. But, as with most summer comedies, there are big holes. It doesn't really make sense that the animals be housed in the ark, despite the parallels with the Bible story. And when the thousands of animals do congregate by the in-process ark, the media and townspeople aren't seeing that as a sign that just maybe Evan is on to something. But it is funny to see how this modern-day Noah is just as much at risk due to building code violations as he would be to the mocking of unbelievers.

The supporting cast, beyond Carell, is pretty good. John Goodman is solid as always, though I didn't see him promoted all that much, and Wanda Sykes is funny, though it seems her job was to drop one liners for the camera each time she was in the picture. With no character development for her, it seems she was just reenacting her standup routines best seen on Comedy Central. Carell pulls off the Noah routine well, looking forlorn with what has befallen him, and struggling to maintain a career when he has a higher calling. But he's no Jim Carrey. There's only one of those, and the absence of the star who can take over the movie screen and have your sides in stitches reduces this film to a Sunday School story with jokes.

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