|Evan Almighty (2007)
Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren
Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah
Director: Tom Shadyac
Whether or not you enjoyed “Bruce Almighty,” the original God-recruits-human comedy starring Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston, I think we can all agree that a sequel was completely unnecessary. Of course, money speaks louder than words in Hollywood, and though the film’s stars had absolutely no desire to reprise their roles for a second go-around, Universal moved ahead anyways, choosing to switch focus to a secondary character from the first film and making history as the most expensive comedy ever produced. So, did it pay off? Not as much as they would have hoped, unfortunately, because while “Evan Almighty” may succeed on the level of a generic, feel-good family movie, fans of Steve Carell will be left wishing for more.
The “Office” star reprises his role as Buffalo news anchor Evan Baxter, recently voted to Congress with his promise to “change the world” when he’s paid a visit by God (Morgan Freeman) to do just that: build an ark in preparation for an impending flood. Ignoring the visit at first, Evan soon realizes the big guy may be telling the truth when animals begin to follow him around town and his hair grows into a messy mane. Convinced he’s been chosen to serve as a modern-day Noah by building an ark with his wife (Lauren Graham) and three kids, Evan’s new position on Capitol Hill is put into jeopardy when his sudden change in behavior results in some horrible first impressions and a city of disbelievers.
Not much of a sequel as it is an extension of its predecessor, “Evan Almighty” retains more of the “Bruce Almighty” team than you might think. Along with Carell as the title character and Morgan Freeman as God, the film’s director (Tom Shadyac) and head writer (Steve Oedekerk) also return, and in doing so, have managed to carry over the spirit of the original film. Nevertheless, while Carell’s star has certainly risen since the release of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Office,” he’s no Jim Carrey. Granted, not even Jim Carrey is Jim Carrey anymore, but if you look at Carell’s resume, the actor’s success has always been directly tied to a strong cast of supporting players. In this case, Carell has once again been given a dream team of co-stars (including John Michael Higgins, Wanda Sykes and Jonah Hill), but none of them shine quite like you expect them to.
In fact, with the exception of a few lines from Hill (clearly improvised), the aforementioned trio is pretty much dead weight. The same goes for Lauren Graham (given the unfortunate job of playing Evan’s incredibly dull wife) and John Goodman, whose evil congressman is so been-there-done-that I actually felt bad for the guy every time he was pooped or spitted on by the animals. Of course, the kids in the audience thought it was absolutely hilarious, which is fundamentally what’s so upsetting about the film.
It’s not that “Evan Almighty” is particularly bad, but when a movie is marketed as a family film, I expect certain things, including something for the adults. One can be bombarded with only so many poop jokes and cutesy montages before you seriously consider damning a movie about God, which is why it’ll have such a hard time making back it’s reported $175 million budget. Costing more than twice the amount of the original (or two-thirds of what “Bruce Almighty” made during its entire domestic theatrical run), Universal has taken a major risk in releasing this during a summer where there’s an event film opening almost every week. And unless you’re a devout Christian or one of those preteens who laugh at anything, there are far better (and more interesting) movies to choose from.