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So this time the old Randomatic 3000 spat out Evan Almighty, the follow-up to Bruce Almighty. I’ve seen them both before so this will be an almighty second coming.

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Bruce Almighty

Director:
Tom Shadyac

Writers:
Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk

Cast:
Jim Carrey – Bruce Nolan
Morgan FreemanGod
Jennifer Aniston – Grace Connelly
Philip Baker Hall – Jack Baylor
Catherine BellSusan Ortega
Lisa Ann Walter – Debbie
Steve CarellEvan Baxter

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 23 May 2003 (USA)

Awards:

BET Comedy Awards, USA 2004

Nominated
BET Comedy Award
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Box Office Movie
Morgan Freeman

Black Reel Awards, USA 2004

Nominated
Black Reel
Film: Best Supporting Actor
Morgan Freeman

Image Awards, USA 2004

Won
Image Award
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Morgan Freeman

Kids’ Choice Awards, USA 2004

Won
Blimp Award
Favorite Movie Actor
Jim Carrey
Nominated
Blimp Award
Favorite Movie

People’s Choice Awards, USA 2004

Won
People’s Choice Award
Favorite Comedy Motion Picture

Teen Choice Awards, USA 2003

Won
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie Actor – Comedy
Jim Carrey
Nominated
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie Actress – Comedy
Jennifer Aniston
Choice Movie Chemistry
Jim Carrey
Morgan Freeman

Ratings:
USA: PG-13
Flickchart Global Ranking: 2382
IMDb: 6.6/10
Metacritic: 46/100
Netflix: 3.5/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 14+

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Jim Carrey & Morgan Freeman

I’ve decided that how you feel about Bruce Almighty will depend largely on how you feel about two controversial figures: Jim Carrey and God.

Let’s start with Jim Carrey. He’s a gifted mugger and can be genuinely funny in small doses…and if I’m in the right mood.

Then there’s God. The way I see it, people’s beliefs about God break down into 8 categories:

1.   God doesn’t exist.
2.   God may or may not exist. I’m not sure.
3.   God probably exists but he’s a cold, distant sonuvabitch who doesn’t care about us anymore.
4.   God exists and loves you, but fuck up once and you’re in the fryer.
5.   God is one with all of us and is in and of everything. That tree outside? God. That tape dispenser? God. The lint that fell out of your pocket and is now attached to the bottom of your sock? Totally God.
6.   God exists and is all powerful but you’re…

a. Worshiping him the wrong way or…
b. Calling him the wrong name.

7.   God exists, loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life…and good luck figuring out what the hell it is.
8.   God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and it’s all right here in this book that has just been translated into today’s modern English. LOL.

I have, at one time or another, subscribed to all of the above with the exceptions of #1 and #5. Right now I’m semi-comfortably camping in the neighborhood of #7. At the beginning of BA, Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is firmly in the #3 camp, with a dose of Depeche Mode‘s “Blasphemous Rumours” thrown in. He thinks God has a sick sense of humor.

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Gimme seven!

Bruce is a bit of a whiner. He has a great life. He’s healthy, gainfully employed, and living with a woman who looks like Jennifer Aniston…what more could a guy want? As it turns out, quite a bit.

Bruce is the wacky human interest reporter at a Buffalo, NY TV station. He gets the hot scoops like the local bakery that’s trying to set the record for the world’s biggest cookie. He really wants to be anchor but the job looks like it might go to the hotshot news reporter Evan Baxter (Steve Carell). When this comes to pass, Bruce has a spectacular meltdown on the air – complete with the one PG-13 allowed f-bomb – and is fired. This sets Bruce on a series of rants where he accuses God of being a big poopy head and tells Him that he could do a better job. So this is exactly what God (Morgan Freeman) decides to do. Give Bruce his powers.

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Bruce, being n’est pas mature, uses his omnipotence to lift skirts of lovely ladies, make his girlfriend Grace’s boobs bigger, get (very painful) revenge on some street thugs, cause Evan to blow his first night as anchor, and get the anchor job himself.

Eventually God comes back and challenges Bruce to…oh, I don’t know…use his powers for somebody other than himself. That’s when the prayers start coming in. Some of them are painful and heartfelt. Most of them are of the “gimme gimme” variety. Not having the patience for this, Bruce just decides to answer “yes” to everything. Give everybody what they want. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I won’t go any further. But BA does bring up a number of questions. What is the real reason for prayer? Does God really answer them? What would you do if you were God? Is it OK to be mad at God? And most importantly…

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God is a Yankees fan? Are you kidding me?

I applaud any filmmakers who bring up these questions, especially in something that’s meant to be popular entertainment. In the DVD commentary director Tom Shadyac indicates that he’s a practicing Catholic, and it shows. As a recovering fundamentalist Christian, I think Catholics and other more liberal Christian traditions have been better at asking questions than fundies.

BA ran into some trouble with fundies of the Christian and Muslim variety. Mainly due to the afore-mentioned f-word and some other crudities. Also Bruce and Grace are living together and one of Bruce’s uses of his power is…well, let’s just say it wasn’t a good night for their neighbors.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Bruce Almighty worked for me. It made me cry at the right moments and, like I said, it brings up some good questions. I have to agree with some of the criticisms about the PG-13 crudeness. I would like to be able to sit down with Boodles, watch BA and have a discussion about God. If only some of the same filmmakers could get together and make a movie from a more PG perspective…well, stay tuned.

tomservo

Tom Servo

44-Evan-Almighty

Evan Almighty

Director:
Tom Shadyac

Writers:
Steve Oedekerk (Story & Screenplay)
Joel Cohen (Story)
Alec Sokolow (Story)
Steve Koren (Characters)
Mark O’Keefe (Characters)

Cast:
Steve CarellEvan Baxter
Morgan FreemanGod
Lauren Graham – Joan Baxter
John Goodman – Congressman Long
Wanda Sykes – Rita
John Michael Higgins – Marty
Molly Shannon – Eve Adams

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 22 June 2007 (USA)

Awards:

People’s Choice Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
People’s Choice Award
Favorite Family Movie

Razzie Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
Razzie Award
Worst Prequel or Sequel

Teen Choice Awards 2007

Won
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie: Scream
Steve Carell
Nominated
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie: Comedy
Choice Movie Actor: Comedy
Steve Carell
Choice Movie: Hissy Fit
Steve Carell

Young Artist Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
Young Artist Award
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor – Comedy or Musical
Jimmy Bennett
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor – Comedy or Musical
Graham Phillips
Best Family Feature Film (Comedy or Drama)

Ratings:
USA: PG
IMDb: 5.4/10
Flickchart: 9284
Metacritic: 37/100
Netflix: 3.4/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 23% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 8+

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God has a long history of appearing in media, despite these depictions being forbidden by Judaism and Islam. From Renaissance paintings of an old white dude to the movies where He appeared mostly as a booming voice of an old white dude, usually either British or John Huston. The movie Oh God! and it’s sequels broke the mold and had God appearing in person. As an old white dude.

Monty Python and later Terry Gilliam also portrayed God as a cranky British Gentleman (“I am the nice one.”). Atheist Seth Macfarlane on Family Guy portrays him as a horny old white dude who drives an Escalade. Even though we know that God isn’t a He, He is usually portrayed as male. One exception was the TV show Joan of Arcadia where He/She appeared as a different person every week. Basically, whether in popular media or in sermons on Sunday, because God isn’t a copyrighted character we get to create Him in our own image and get Him to say whatever we want Him to say.

Noahs_Ark

The flood story in Genesis Chapter 6 is where many Christians get off the biblical literalism boat. Seriously? God is so cheesed off at humanity that he just decides to trash the whole thing and make it rain. And Noah and his family are the only people on Earth that he finds worthy to not kill. The guy that get’s so drunk that he passes out, then when he wakes up he sees that his son Ham noticed that Noah’s bits and pieces were exposed. Know what Noah does in response? Thank his son for covering him up so his bait and tackle can’t be seen by everyone? No, he curses Ham and all his decendants. Really? This guy was the best God could find?

Yes, I know that there’s a brand new movie starring Russell Crowe out right now. Maybe I’ll get to it, but if I wait any longer to finish this post it’s going to burn a hole in my brain.

We can have a big discussion as well about the flood itself. Did it really cover the whole world, or just the world as Noah knew it? Or was there literally a flood or is the whole story an allegory? Scholars disagree about whether there is any scientific proof. Actually, I could buy a flood that covered the known biblical world, but like a lot of things I’m OK with the fact that I don’t know.

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When he made BA, Steve Carell was pre-Office and 40 Year Old Virgin. When it came around to sequel time he was no longer second billing material so Evan Baxter became Evan Almighty…except not so much with the almightyness.

The first problem with EA is the character arc that former Buffalo news anchor Evan has apparently undergone. In the first movie he was egotistical and selfish, but somehow in the past couple years we are supposed to believe that Evan has suddenly grown a conscience and decided that he wants to be a Congressman and “change the world.” Well, maybe that all fits into the character’s megalomania. Who else would set themselves up for failure like that?

Really? Running for office touting “hope” and “change?” Good luck with that.

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Anyway, Evan has bought himself a big house in Virginia and a big fat Hummer to establish that he’s a power player in DC now. He’s got a beautiful wife (Lauren Graham, tiger growl) and three fine young sons. He’s successful, powerful, handsome, and happy. Or so he tells himself every day. The night before his first day as a Congressman he decides to pray that God will help him “change the world.” Big mistake, especially when Freeman God’s around.

Things are looking pretty good for Congressman Baxter. He ended up with a primo office and he’s being taken directly under the wing of the powerful Congressman Long (John Goodman) who has a bill he wants Evan to co-sponsor. Then God shows up to muck everything up. God wants Evan to build an ark just like in Genesis because on September 22 at midday, there’s going to be a flood.

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L-R: Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett, Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, & Johnny Simmons avant le deluge.

Here’s another problem I have: God tells Bruce in the first movie that he can’t mess with free will, but God breaks his own rule in this movie. Even though Evan eventually gives in and decides to build the ark, it’s not like God really gives him a choice. A boatload of wood mysteriously shows up in his yard, two of every animal in existence start following him around, and then his appearance starts changing. At first the normally fastidious Evan finds that his whiskers won’t shave off, then his hair starts growing, and by the end he is in full-on Noah mode sporting a “very comfortable” robe and sandals. Naturally none of this behavior goes over very well in DC. Long kicks Evan out and Joan and the kids, thinking that Evan has cracked, consider leaving him while he pursues his newfound nautical hobby.

Perhaps in response to criticism that BA was too dirty or irreverent, Shadyac worked with Christian organizations to overcome some of those issues. I remember seeing an ad for EA in a conservative Christian magazine before it came out. The result is, as far as I’m concerned, quite reverent. I can’t imagine why any fundies would object to it. The screen play even addresses the idea of literal vs. figurative interpretations. At one point Joan asks Evan if he really thinks there’s going to be a literal flood instead of maybe a “flood of awareness?” Evan replies that if that’s the case he is going to “be so pissed.”

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Evan Almighty didn’t get very many good reviews, and the source of all knowledge claims that it didn’t make it’s money back at the box office. I don’t hate it. I think they did a pretty good job of handling some tricky material with humor but without becoming too irreverent.

It makes you think about what you would do if God asked you to do something big? The fact is that He/She asks us to things every day. There are ten of them: Don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, etc. Then Jesus added another biggie: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Most of us, whatever religion or creed we follow, manage to blow off most of these commandments on a daily basis. We aren’t faithful in the little things, so how could we think that God can trust in the big things?

Despite its flaws, I give EA a lot of credit for asking these questions in a mainstream comedy.

cambot

Cambot

Closing Love Theme

I’ve mentioned in a previous review that my favorite screen depiction of God was in Time Bandits, but I think I’m going to revise that. My all time favorite is from Kevin Smith’s scatological and profound movie Dogma. At the end God shows up to clean up the mess that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have made as two renegade angels, and She appears as a strange, enigmatic, oddly beautiful creature played by singer/songwriter Alanis Morrisette.

Perfect. Marvelous. Maddening. Funny. Mysterious. Awe-inspring. Unfathomable. Ultimately – and is this really surprising? – unknowable.

But just because our finite brains can’t really comprehend the infinite, does that mean we should stop trying?

A MISPLACED BOY WILL RETURN

in

DOG EAT DOG (Perro Come Perro)

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