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From the looks of it, the 2007 summer movie season is shaping up to be a long, hot, and crappy one. One of the first entries into this stacked playing field is the immensely expensive and spectacularly unfunny Evan Almighty, a sequel of sorts to the 2003 Jim Carrey vehicle, Bruce Almighty. The only thing the two really have in common is the appearance of Morgan Freeman as a cool, laid-back, mellow version of God - better suited to the popcorn crowd's tastes than the wrathful, unflinching, irony-inclined God that seems to pop up much more often in our day-to-day lives. Steve Carrell takes the reigns in this installment, utterly wasting his talents in the process. He stars as Evan Baxter, a Buffalo TV anchor-turned-Congressman who moves to a Washington D.C. suburb with his family to "change the world." Before Evan can do so, God unfortunately shows up and convinces him that he must build an ark to save himself from an impending flood. As Evan physically turns into Noah, growing a beard and dressing in robes, and is assailed by pairs of animals, both computer-generated and real, he slowly accepts his fate. By the end of the film, the chagrin of his family and colleagues has turned into admiration, and everyone lives happily ever after.
You've heard this basic back-story a thousand times before: breadwinning, warmhearted father works way too hard and his wife and children, continually let down, miss his company. Carrell is given next to nothing to work with here, in terms of a script, as nary a zinger was written for this supposed mega-comedy. His only semi-funny moments come with his wardrobe and physical gags. As his hair and weirdly painted-on beard grow out and he trades in his suit for biblical robes, Carrell gleefully steps up to the task of finding humor in the physicality, amusingly mugging for the camera in this absurd get-up. Speaking of physical humor, the screenwriters apparently watch their share of America's Funniest Home Videos, as the requisite "getting hit in the groin" gags are present, the first which occurs about 20 minutes into the film. As far as actual comedic dialogue, Wanda Sykes, playing one of Evan's staff members, is about the only one given any clever lines, as when she marvels at his physical transformation and wonders whether he'll cornrow his eyebrows. But whatever chuckles Sykes does elicit are more to the credit of her trademark deadpan delivery than the quality of the material.
The subplot plays out something like this: John Goodman plays a villainous senator trying to get Evan to co-sponsor a bill that is disguised as good but is really evil. As Evan's transformation continues and hordes of birds swarm into his office, what at first seems like genius publicity ploys eventually puts him out of favor with the Congressman. Accepting his fate, Evan decides to focus fulltime on building the ark, convinced that the end of the world is indeed nigh. But all this is really beside the point.
Let's get to the crux of things. Evan Almighty is a creationist fantasy, a comedy without humor and way too many CGI effects. There is far too much focus on children and animals (never a good sign for any movie), and it is ultimately a raging disaster movie disguised as feel-good entertainment for Christians. When the flood does come and Evan and his crew ride the torrents down the National Mall towards Congress, logic would dictate that hundreds of thousands of people would have perished. But somehow the movie convinces us that this is not so. Maybe that's nitpicking, but I guess it's all part of God's plan, anyway. The intelligent design crowd doesn't want to spend its hard-earned 10 bucks on gloom and doom. And that's where this movie really gets its traction. Its basic working premise is that God - not the movement of the Earth's crust, not the Ice Age, but the Almighty - created the beautiful Virginia countryside where Evan buys his new house. And of course all those animals helping with the ark's construction present a rock-solid argument against evolution - surely, only creatures created by God would have the wherewithal to pick up a hammer. Sure, it's hard to place one's faith in humanity and science in this uncertain age of war and conflict, but it seems even more ludicrous to place faith in God's hand, when disputes about said hands seem to be the cause of so much strife. And, ultimately, why do we need a comedy that really isn't even funny to instill belief in the spiritual domain in the general populace? Either Hollywood isn't as Godless as Middle America believes or there are producers out there who realize the financial potential of quasi-pious, sophomoric comedy. Evan Almighty will probably do gangbusters at the box office this summer, but for my money, I'd rather go see a mindless action flick like Transformers than a false-minded crapedy like this film. SEE ALSO: www.evanalmighty.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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