Friday, April 11, 2008

Almighty Then! or: "How Long Can You Tread Water?"

"Bruce Almighty" (Tom Shadyac, 2003)/"Evan Almighty" (Tom Shadyac, 2007)
"Bruce Almighty" was a gently humanistic take (more like the director's "Liar, Liar" and "Patch Adams," than his anarchic "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective") on God and Godliness, a bit like having your eucharistic wafer and abstaining from it, too. Jim Carrey, a frequent Shadyac collaborator, played Bruce Nolan, a rubberly mobile human interest tv reporter who became tired of reporting fluff and coveted the anchorman's chair. Thinking his lot being...well, like Lot's (or Job's), he blames God for his sorrows, despite having Jennifer Aniston as his supportive live-in girlfriend, a brownstone in New York, a dog who loves him, and--dare we say it--a cushy reporter's job! Not only that, God actually answers his prayers. And not just any God, it's God in the form of Morgan Freeman (type-casting, admit it), the most denominationally-friendly choice for the role, other than Eric Clapton. "Bruce Almighty" delivered a lot of laughs. Carrey was not so much over-the-medication that he was funny, rather than alarming, and the feel-good message of "we're all just a little bit God" is just theologically mushy enough to satisfy everyone from the self-flagellators to the shakra zulu's....and keep the picketers at bay. But one does wonder: a look at the DVD's "Special Features" shows a definite softening of the material. Carrey with "God" powers goes a bit "Old Testament" in the out-takes, including a sequence that would have fit right in with "The Mask" featuring Divine Intervention with some car-jackers, some extreme "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" stories, and the further torturing of Steve Carell's rival anchor Evan Baxter, that includes setting his hair on fire during a newscast. Not quite so heart-warming. It would have tilted the film a little bit into the zany/cruel category, that might have upset the Faithful. Still, it's a fun-film that is genuinely funny, and does have its heart in the right place.

So, what in Hell happened to "Evan Almighty?" Mind you, I haven't seen it. K. saw it, and said "It's just not funny! Not once!" There were reports of problems, that the film went waaaaaaaay over-budget, threatening to turn it into the most expensive comedy ever made, and, of course, where Carell was featured only briefly (and brilliantly) in "Bruce," it was his cross to bear to stand in for Jim Carrey. Carell is an incredible talent who can cross the territories between comedy and drama and do so credibly--given the right material. But he's not good at everything. "Bruce Almighty" showed a gift for slapstick--his Tourette's news-anchor was one of the funniest things in it, but he's at his best as a low-energy Buster Keaton, standing stone-faced while the house falls around him. Evidently having everything that can possibly go wrong in the "Noah" scenario didn't result in a laugh riot. There are just so many poop jokes you can wring out of the "ark." So, as an experiment, I put "Bruce Almighty" in the Netflix queue to see if K would have the same reaction.

She howled. She just thought it was hysterical--and the out-takes even more so.

So, "Evan Almighty" is just genuinely un-funny.

Isn't there a Bible story about going to the well one too many times?

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