People like to talk about having a “personal” relationship with God. Maybe that’s why both these films bring in audiences — the chance to watch the main characters actually have that relationship on screen in a literal sense.
In the wish-fulfillment saga of Bruce Almighty, weatherman Bruce goes into an on-air meltdown followed by a rant to God about how He’s doing a miserable job. Now, in the sequel, Evan Almighty, Evan prays to the Man Upstairs for good luck on his first day as a congressman — and does it as if it’s just another quick cellphone call. Both Bruce and Evan end up in a one-on-one with God, but it’s an open question as to whether this divine intervention was enough to float either film. You’ve probably heard already that Evan Almighty had the highest budget for a comedy in film history. Money well spent? We’ll see…
Evan Almighty is the newest movie from the creative team of director Tom Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk, who previously collaborated on Bruce Almighty. Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell) is a Buffalo news-anchor-turned-Congressman (he was in the original) who moves his family to Washington, D.C., for his new career in politics. Evan got elected through his campaign promise of ‘Change the World,’ which seems like one tall order for Evan to fill. Even though Evan doesn’t even have a new iPhone, God still answers his call. Connection made, God personally assigns him the biblical duty of building an ark in time for an imminent flood. Naturally, Evan would rather tend to the people’s business, as he defines it, rather than ark-building, but Morgan Freeman’s God is an unusually persuasive constituent. You try saying “no” to the guy.
The Defending Champion
Bruce Almighty sets up the themes, ideas, and conflicts for its spinoff, Evan Almighty, through its character development. For instance, God (played by Morgan Freeman), is a man in a white suit with incredible patience for Jim Carrey’s self-obsessed Bruce Nolan weatherman. Nolan, his failing career putting significant stress in his life, challenges God to switch responsibilities with him. God, being a whimsical sort and feeling a little bit of career burnout Himself, is up to the challenge and grants Nolan all of His mighty powers. What Nolan comes to realize throughout the film is that being high and mighty has its consequences — like the floundering of his relationship with his girlfriend, Grace, (played by Jennifer Aniston). Bruce might have God’s powers, but it takes him awhile to start acting like Him.
Both films are set in Buffalo to give their stories that ” it could happen to anybody” feeling. Honestly, both have enough plot holes to float an ark through them. In Evan Almighty, for example, Carell’s Evan needs to build an ark for two of every animal on Earth, like the Bible says, as a way repopulate. So why does the ark only travel from Prestige Ridge in Virginia to Washington, D.C.? Why did these animals appear from nowhere to be transported only a few miles away? Wouldn’t they still happily exist in other parts of the world and not need to be saved? Questions…
In Bruce Almighty, Bruce’s godly powers are only applied in his hometown of Buffalo. We never see him dealing with universal problems which would be expected on a global scale. Instead, Bruce deals with his dog peeing in his apartment and traffic jams on his way to work.
Both Bruce and Evan probably need to be taught a lesson by somebody, if not God, but the results are uneven. Bruce is clearly the more selfish, cursing at God because (shock!) he can’t be a TV anchorman. Oh, boohoo! But Jim Carrey did a better job bringing the comedy out of Bruce. Evan, in contrast, is more the beset guy being screwed with by God. We’ve even seen the complications before — when his facial hair is growing uncontrollably, I’m thinking The Santa Claus.
The one consistently wonderful element of both films is, of course, Morgan Freeman who is just detached and bemused enough to be warm and funny at the same time. I’m not sure about the theology of God appearing in a white suit and spending time with TV personalities and politicians when there are so many more deserving types out there, but that’s the movies, I guess.
Anyway, this is clearly one of those choices where the films are not so great that you simply have to see both of them. Both are humorous films with comically perfect leads, but both require a lot of faith from their viewers to believe in the powers of the Almighty. If you have to pick one, here’s my recommendation:
The sequel — despite having more money than God (been saving that one!) thrown at it — is simply not as good as the original creation. Bruce Almighty is hardly perfect, but if you haven’t seen either it or Evan Almighty, my advice is to go for the rental now and see how you feel later. Even in its worst moments, Bruce Almighty still manages to tiptoe up to creating an atmosphere where one can forgot about the limits of being human and focus on the limitlessness of being God. Evan Almighty is just a story about the ultimate hassle.
Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) sees his life as mediocre. Self-involved and immature, he loves his longtime girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston), but has never gotten around to proposing. His job as a tv reporter in Buffalo, New York, doesn't satisfy him. When he is denied the only thing he truly covets, an anchor spot, his simmering discontent boils over. Bruce accuses God of being negligent, even sadistic.
That's when God (Morgan Freeman) challenges Bruce to do better. And so Bruce Nolan becomes God for a time—only to discover that omnipotence ain't all it's cracked up to be.
I went to this screening with some trepidation. Although Jim Carrey is undeniably gifted, a commercial impetus tends to move his sort of talent beyond farce into caricature—not within my comedic tastes.
But Carrey won me over with his puppyish eagerness to please. He manages to be at once a consummate performer and all heart. Maybe the film works because the concept Carrey is trying to get across is larger than his larger-than-life persona. Or maybe it's his strong desire to have us truly listen, so certain is he that if we pay attention, we'll come away with a grain of truth. Or it could be that when someone writes a love note to Yahweh and wants so badly to share it, it's hard to turn away.
Make no mistake: Bruce Almighty is Judeo-Christian to its bones. Even a gift of prayer beads from Bruce's girlfriend can't quite bestow on the film that glossy "all religions are one" hue. After all, with God the Father represented by the venerable Morgan Freeman; with grace embodied by the all-loving, all-forgiving, faithful-to-the-end girlfriend; and with the Holy Spirit writing on the cardboard placards of a homeless man, it would be tough to argue that ...1
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