Evan Almighty (2007)

reviewed by
David N. Butterworth


EVAN ALMIGHTY
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2007 David N. Butterworth
**1/2 (out of ****)

"Evan Almighty" is not exactly a sequel to the 2003 film "Bruce Almighty"; it's more the same film--the same concept--but with a different plot. Morgan Freeman plays God in both films and he's rather good at it (perhaps that's why they invited him back). They didn't ask Jim Carrey to reprise his role (as Bruce) but instead recruited funny man du jour Steve Carell, of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "The Office," to portray Evan.

Then they did this clever switcheroo thing with the title and the Lord works in mysterious ways: "Evan Almighty."

"Bruce Almighty" was, frankly, insufferable, with much potential--augmented by Carrey's trademark manic overpinnings--undone by a D.O.A. script. Carell does better here, well cast in the role of a Capitol Hill family man, Evan Baxter, to whom God appears one day, white robes an' all, and instructs Evan to build himself an ark. Er, why exactly? Because a flood is imminent. A big one. Suffice it to say the nightly news anchor turned congressman is a little skeptical, until wood, tools, and pairs of animals start showing up on his Prestige Crest doorstep.

There's nothing wrong with "Evan Almighty" that a healthy dose of humor couldn't fix. That's my biggest problem with Tom Shadyac's film: it's not particularly funny. Carell, whom I like, isn't given much to do except whack his thumb with a mallet in a zany thumb whacking montage, sport increasingly long facial hair, and prance around in biblical-styled roles looking like Moses. Well, Noah I suppose. And then there's "The Dance."

Other attempts at humor feature Wanda Sykes, the irreverent voice behind various quadrupeds in "Over the Hedge," "Barnyard," and the straight-to-video "Brother Bear 2," delivering constant--and constantly lame--wisecracks courtesy her typically high-pitched sass. Rita's one of Congressman Baxter's aides, generally nonplussed by all the biblical wackiness enshrouding her boss.

I expected to laugh a lot during "Evan Almighty." I didn't. But what I didn't expect was to find a special effects rich--and surprisingly sweet--family drama, one with some pretty positive messages to impart to its younger viewers. Carell breaks the Screen Actor's Guild's cardinal rule by working with both animals *and* children, although a vast majority of the former (presumably few of the latter), are computer generated. So well, in fact, that it's often hard to see where the real animals (and birds) end and the fake ones begin.

John Goodman, as a corrupt politician, "SNL"'s Molly Shannon (as a realtor), and "A Mighty Wind"'s John Michael Higgins (playing another Baxter aide) all have minor roles but the focus is on the family: Lauren Graham plays Evan's wife Joan and the three Baxter boys--Dylan, Jordan, and Ryan--are played by Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, and Jimmy Bennett respectively. God, of course, as modeled by Freeman, is good.

One of the most generous things you can say about "Evan Almighty," I suppose, is that it's no "Bruce Almighty." But it's no ark de triumph either.

--
David N. Butterworth
dnb@dca.net

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