As I do my best to rewind and remember 2003’s Bruce Almighty I do not recall leaving the theater and spouting something to the tune of, “man, this movie needs a sequel!” But, of course, that film raked in $242 million domestically. Now, four years later (one year shy of blatantly breaking my sequel rule), Evan Almighty has arrived with an egregiously bloated budget ($175 million) and a script that clearly shows its age; there is actually a zinger about the diet drug Fen-phen, which was taken off the market in 2004.
Since the events of Bruce Almighty, wise-ass newscaster Evan Baxter (Carell) has taken the next logical step in his career path: he’s now a Congressman. He and his family have moved to a plush mini-mansion in an exclusive neighborhood and things are looking top-notch. That is until God (Freeman) makes the passage of scripture Genesis 6:14 a big part of Evan’s life. God asks Evan to build an ark, as there is a massive flood on the way. Evan ignores the orders initially, but begins to obey once he starts growing a giant beard and has pairs of animals following him around. Thus begins work on the ark and fulfillment of the good deeds Evan is encouraged to make.
What made Bruce Almighty work, at least to a certain degree, was that it appealed to holy rollers as well as the casual Jim Carrey fan equally. Likewise, Evan Almighty never feels preachy, but it sure feels a heck of a lot more desperate. Extended sequences of badly-executed slapstick, the aforementioned dated jokes, and my old nemesis, the animal reaction shot, permeate a film that otherwise means well and is having fun with its source material. The climactic flood and subsequent sailing of the ark is plenty boisterous and looks pretty good, but it comes off as hollow and surprisingly devoid of emotion. I guess the bottomless pit that was the budget went to their heads.
Steve Carell can take all the credit for keeping this project from being a total wash. His comic timing is spot-on and he is the man if you’re simply looking for an actor to put in bizarre situations. Carell has the uncanny ability to be smug and immensely likable, all the while not even coming close to overacting. He’s pretty much on his own here, as Morgan Freeman probably shot his scenes in one day and the supporting cast is mediocre at best.
In the realm of unnecessary sequels, Evan Almighty still ranks pretty high. No one asked for this, and Universal Pictures will likely be busting out the penny jar since this is being released the week before Pixar’s Ratatouille. Sometimes it’s best to just leave average alone.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 95 Minutes
Rating: PG for mild rude humor and some peril.
Theatrical Release: June 22, 2007
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Written by: Steve Oedekerk. Story by Oedekerk & Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow. Characters by Steve Koren & Mark O’Keefe.
Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett