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December 18th, 2006:
Squeaky-clean Buffalo television newscaster Evan Baxter (Steve Carell
) is headed for Washington D.C. after being elected a United States congressman. Together with his wife (Lauren Graham
) and kids, he sets out for suburban northern Virginia to start his new life. Best laid plans sometimes have a way of not quite working out and as it turns out, it isn’t long before Evan’s happiness is rudely interrupted by the mysterious appearance of God (Morgan Freeman
). Apparently, another massive flood is coming and God has chosen Evan to follow in Noah’s footsteps and build an ark enormous enough to house him, his family, and two of every species on earth. As outrageous as the situation may seem, Evan has good reason to believe that God is not leading him astray and so he begins the monumental construction. While he seems to have found new, spiritual enlightenment, his family and his neighbors start to think that he has actually gone insane. It may simply be a wild, mid-life crisis or perhaps, Evan is acting to serve humanity.What to Expect:
Robert Florsheim and Josh Stolberg wrote a script titled The Passion of the Ark. Hollywood took it, reworked it, and made a sequel out of it. Never mind the fact that this story has already been made into a movie, back in 1998. The television fantasy “Noah,” which starred Tony Danza as the modern-day shipbuilder, introduced an identical premise. Persuaded by an angel, his character takes on the task very seriously, much to the dismay of his family and neighbors. It’s almost a mirror image; however, Noah does not stand a chance against a colossal production like Evan Almighty and has probably not reached enough people to raise a substantial number of eyebrows as to the copycat nature of the upcoming blockbuster. Article continues below
Just like with its predecessor Bruce Almighty, Steve Oedekerk
eventually gets the screenplay credit for the sequel. Both projects may seem a little unusual for the zany writer-director who last directed Barnyard
and is currently working on another sequel, Kung Pow 2: Tongue of Fury, but who could refuse such big paycheck jobs. The 2003 Jim Carrey
flick was a monster, earning over $85 million on opening weekend, some $242 million domestically, and approximately $500 million worldwide. Clearly, neither Oedekerk nor director Tom Shadyac
, who also returns for the sequel, could resist dabbling some more with such a successful formula. Unlike Oedekerk, Shadyac is no stranger to big-budget comedies, having helmed successful features like Liar Liar, Patch Adams, The Nutty Professor, and, of course, Bruce Almighty.
On the casting front, stars Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston
declined to reprise their roles from Bruce Almighty. When it was announced that Carrell’s character Evan Baxter, merely a supporting figure in Bruce Almighty, was to become the lead in the sequel, the move seemed like a desperate attempt by the studio to force a project that would better be left alone. As more news and pictures have come out from the set, however, it has become more apparent that the Evan Baxter character is expanded on quite substantially and that Evan Almighty is separating itself from its predecessor. I would venture to say that we can expect a better spin-off than with The Rise of Taj
. With the great Morgan Freeman returning to reprise his role as God, there’s an immediate sense that somehow everything should be alright, even if the cast is not quite as high profile as in the original. Shadyac considered several women for the role of Evan’s wife, including Jennifer Aniston’s “friend” Lisa Kudrow, but eventually went with “Gilmore Girl” Lauren Graham. No offense intended toward Graham, but in the end it probably doesn’t matter what actress was picked to play the female lead since her part will most likely boil down to a series of scenes where she does little more than react to humor generated by Carell. That’s pretty much the way the Aniston-Carrey pairing worked.
Actors like John Goodman
, Wanda Sykes
, Jonah Hill
, and John Michael Higgins
should provide some colorful support to the film’s lead stars. Goodman will play Evan’s fellow politician who takes Evan under his wing, hoping to exploit him a little to his benefit. He is definitely the type of character that likes to make a couple of dollars on the side. Sykes (Monster-in-Law, Clerks II
, My Super Ex-Girlfriend
), Hill (Click
), and Higgins (A Mighty Wind, Fun with Dick and Jane, The Break-Up
) will play Baxter’s assistants. With her wild, vivacious personality, there’s no telling what Sykes will do in any given role, but it’s bound to come with her uniquely piercing voice. Hill, who was one of very few bright spots in the lackluster comedy Accepted, will play an assistant that’s uncomfortably infatuated with his boss, Congressman Baxter. Higgins, on the other hand, should bring some of that lovable quirkiness that he has shown in several of Christopher Guest
Undoubtedly, the biggest story to come from the set of Evan Almighty is news that the film’s budget has spiraled out of control and has completely exceeded the studio’s expectations. Originally, the movie was planned to cost in the vicinity of $140 million, but many unforeseen challenges shot the budget up to $160 million, with that number expected to hit $175 million by the time the movie is finished. With marketing taken into account, Evan Almighty has become a quarter billion dollar venture, making it the most expensive comedy ever made. Will Smith
's blockbusters Wild, Wild West and Men in Black II have been the most expensive comedies thus far with costs totaling $170 million and $140 million, respectively. Many have blamed Evan Almighty’s ballooning expenses on the studio’s failed attempts to rush the production to finish in time for the 2006 December holiday season. The difficult schedule forced the filmmakers to shoot in Virginia during a very rainy period that actually caused an 11-day delay. Obviously, shooting hundreds of animals has proven to be quite challenging as well. Arrangements had to be made to keep dangerous predators like lions and tigers separated from attractive targets such as monkeys and giraffes. Perhaps the most unnecessary thing of all is the exact replica of Noah’s ark that was built especially for the film. With a length of 450 feet, a width of 80 feet, and a height of 51 feet, the vessel was constructed as per the descriptions in the Bible. Would it really have hurt anyone to have a height of 50 feet even? This isn’t a Stanley Kubrick film.
The producers have acknowledged that their original budget estimates were flawed and that under the new circumstances it would be difficult to turn in a profit, but they still seem to be very optimistic, calling the film “a good bet.” At the same time, rumors have started that the entire budget story has been greatly exaggerated in order to generate buzz. Many claim that it is impossible for a comedy to amass such a hefty bill and that the studio is simply looking for attention with the publicity stunt.
While initial reactions following the announcement of the film were very frosty, with time, the production has garnered momentum. In fact, I believe that Evan Almighty holds the potential to be a better and funnier film than Bruce Almighty, which simply relied on the old formula of giving a guy limitless powers, only to begin attaching limitations and catches to them one by one. The first trailer
for Evan Almighty is exactly the type of promotion that a big budget flick like this needs. It’s not a laugh-out-loud funny trailer, but it is safe and moderate, and one just gets the sense that this movie is destined to become a hit with the masses. It will be made and marketed for the whole family; it will be rated PG; it will be rather inoffensive and it will sugarcoat. That should certainly be enough to make back its budget.In Conclusion:
This combination of comedy and fantasy with a famous Biblical story thrown into the mix may indeed be a very crowd-pleasing one. If this were a PG-13 flick, I think that it would struggle, but the family-friendly material should pay off. Carell has certainly built himself up to leading man material, but I don’t think his name is recognizable enough to drive in Carrey-like numbers. The film should neither benefit nor suffer for being a sequel since it appears to be distancing itself from its predecessors. With box-office receipts down, I cannot imagine Evan Almighty making back its budget domestically, but after international receipts are weighed in, everyone should still have their jobs.Similar Titles: Bruce Almighty
, The Nutty Professor