In hindsight, Bruce Almighty was the death knell for the Jim Carrey
we know and love. This isn't completely a bad thing: Rurning away from manic comedy allowed Carrey to do the best acting of his career in Michel Gondry
's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It also allowed for The Number 23
. You win some, and you really, really lose some. But that wacky spazz with the ability to manipulate his body like it was made of laffy-taffy was seen hardening in Bruce Almighty, his artful physical comedy becoming a frantic centerpiece to otherwise inept material. It seems strange that Bruce was Carrey's moment of decay while the film's sequel, Evan Almighty, welcomes the great Steve Carell
into the annals of mainstream comedic stardom.
Carell's been smart, so far, with his choices of role. Stepping out with small roles in Bruce Almighty and Woody Allen
's Melinda and Melinda, Carell hit pay dirt with last summer's sleeper-hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin, quickly establishing him as an actor with even measures of heart and humor. Then he starred in another sleeper: last year's Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine
. It now seems time to allow Carell to try his hand at big-budget ($175 million to be exact) summer comedies, seeing if his mug can rake in the big bucks. Article continues below
Evan Almighty couldn't be more critically bulletproof. For those who haven't peeped the millions of posters that outline buses, subway stations, and theater cases, here's the skinny: Evan Baxter (Carell) has just won a seat in Congress and is moving his family to a high-priced mini-mansion in Washington D.C. Not two days into his new job, Evan is approached by God (perfectly re-cast Morgan Freeman
) to start building an ark to support his family and some animals when a great flood hits on September 22nd.
Though it takes some cajoling, Evan eventually steps into the shoes of Noah, despite pleas from his wife (Lauren Graham
) and his assistants (Wanda Sykes
, John Michael Higgins
, and Jonah Hill
). His sons (Jimmy Bennett
, Graham Phillips
, Johnny Simmons
) think he's lost it but decide to help him with construction anyways. The only boulder in the way: Congressman Long (John Goodman
), a bully of a corrupt politician who uses Evan's insanity as a way to help his own agenda.
Evan is the movie that the 9-to-5 parent brings the spouse and kids to before dinner at T.G.I. Friday's on Saturday night. It's a family film with the guise of being a comedy, though I don't remembering even giggling once (nor my father, along for the ride) during the press screening. But the masses will embrace it, because it has a comfortable edge and the foresight to accept the presence of God upfront. This is not meant to be condescending at all: I've happily sat through Norbit
and Bridge to Terabithia
in the name of family with only slight bite marks on my tongue. However, it does hurt to watch Carell keep himself subdued and restrained when the film pleads for some exuberance. It's hapless entertainment that will make kids laugh and parents happy to be done with the work week. The critic in me screams but the family man completely understands.