Mark Reviews Movies

EVAN ALMIGHTY

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Tom Shadyac

Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon

MPAA Rating: PG  (for mild rude humor and some peril)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 6/22/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

In the end, Evan Almighty is an allegory for government mistakes leading to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. With poop jokes. Lots of poop jokes. One could say I'm reading too much into the movie, but the shift in tone during the movie's climactic mini-Apocalypse is so dramatic, you can sense the screenwriters pleading for the audience to make the political connection. Questionable real-life metaphor aside, the movie loses its footing well before it gets all heavy- and under-handed. I think it's at the second poop joke. Maybe it's the third poop joke, but I guarantee it is well before the fifth and sixth poop jokes. You kind of have to admire its predecessor Bruce Almighty a bit more after this one. After all, that one was at least somewhat clever with its humor, a bit relatable to its title character and how having God's powers affects him, and surprisingly effective in bringing a worthwhile theme out of its later schmaltz. This one takes a promising comic leading man and makes him act a fool for the sake of acting a fool and rehashes the story of Noah and the ark with lame, predictable jokes—usually of the scatological variety.

Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), the competitive and smarmy news anchor of the first movie, is at his last day as a network news reporter. After a successful political campaign with the promise to change the world, Evan is about to become a Representative in the US House. He, his wife Joan (Lauren Graham), and three sons (Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, and Jimmy Bennett) move to the aptly named Prestige Crest community in their new Hummer. That night, Joan tells Evan that she and the boys prayed—she for their family to get closer—and he should do the same. Later, he does, asking for help to change the world. The next morning, the alarm goes off at 6:14 instead of 7:00, and tools from Alpha and Omega Hardware are waiting at the door. Arriving at the Capital, Evan discovers he has a big office instead of the basement he was expecting and that Congressman Long (John Goodman) wants him to co-sponsor a new bill, meaning he has to put off the hiking trip he planned with the family. The next morning, the alarm does the same thing, a pile of wood is in the front yard, and God (Morgan Freeman) tells Evan to build an ark.

Evan's disbelief lasts only for a little while until God tells Evan everything about him (including his childhood fear of Gumby) shows up everywhere, including at the Pledge of Allegiance ("One nation, under me") starting his first meeting. Evan even starts seeing 6:14 everywhere, referring to Genesis, 6:14 where God tells Noah to build an ark. Pairs of animals begin to appear, following Evan everywhere (with birds pooping on his new Hummer and suit, naturally). There's an awkward scene where Evan turns a swarm of birds in his office into a convincing argument for Long's bill, which leads to Long and his colleagues decrying the work of environmentalists who might frown upon the bill's concept of turning National Park land into building development sites. In the meantime, Evan starts growing a beard, which he shaves repeatedly only to have it return. There might be a lot of unnecessary fecal matter jokes here, but there are more pop culture references involving beards and long hair (member of the Bee Gees, John Lennon, the fifth Beatle—take your pick). The whole thing leads to the strange fashion statement of a ponytail on Evan's chin and robes that God left with a note. God loves leaving little notes, by the way.

God is also an identity thief here, using Evan's finances to purchase eight adjoining lots for the purposes of building the ark, but he gives him a copy of Ark Building for Dummies (groan) in return. Aside from the poop and beard jokes, the movie also contains a forced slapstick physical labor montage as Evan attempts to build the ark, falling and hitting himself with tools as often as possible. Steve Carell is a very funny man (in the first movie, he practically steals every scene he's in), but with this material, he's reduced to a shadow of his comic persona. Even Morgan Freeman, who exudes wisdom as the Almighty, doesn't have much to work with here. His God's insistence that random acts of kindness change the world sounds more Oprah-ish this time around, and even Freeman cannot make the argument that the tale of Noah and the flood is really a love story convincing. The flood this time around goes back to Long and some shady development deals, and one has to wonder why God cares so much about the material possessions of a bunch of well-to-do people in a gated community when there's so much of more vitally important things going on in—well, throw a dart at a map and you'll hit something.

The flood sequence isn't convincing on a special effects level, but it is slightly intense nonetheless, which is a problem unto itself. Suddenly, the whole movie becomes serious—and hence hypocritical—with its real-world parallel. At least Evan Almighty isn't blatantly preachy, although Evan does tell Long simply to "Repent." This is well after Long ends up covered in bird poop, of course.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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