Jun 22, 2007

On Evan Almighty

A spectacle of staggering banality, "Evan Almighty", Tom Shadyac’s follow up to his 2003 Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty, returns only Morgan Freeman’s wise cracking, white wearing Black God from the original. Still, one last whirl as the excessively non-offensive deity might have done the most sanctified of African-American actors some good, as he’s practically the only thing worth watching in this otherwise bloated, terminally lackadaisical studio effort. Not that he and the gifted comedian Steve Carell don’t have chemistry, but the script they’ve been given doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. In Shadyac and veteran comedy auteur Steve Oedekerk’s hands, this modern retelling of the Noah’s ark myth does little to flesh out a series of supposedly comedic scenarios in which the anxiety of a godless post-modernity are brought to a head by the prospect of Devine intervention. For the good of mankind God will destroy the suburbs and exalt an decent but undeserving man to prophet status? Ok… That this tension, which is an interesting one, is explored in such haphazard fashion is a pity. Despite its thematic potential, the scenario is used only as an opportunity to invest in synthetic CGI grandeur and a largely unfunny series of physical sight gags that play more to a Jim Carrey’s strengths than the more cerebral Carrell.

Centering again on a happily married Buffalonian, this time a TV weatherman (Carell) who wins a congressional seat and moves his wife (Lauren Graham) and three bland children (they could be extras from 3 Ninjas) to a D.C. suburb of soul crushing McMansions being hustled by Molly Shannon in optimal annoyance mode. Evan Baxter soon begins to get visions of God (Freeman) who makes his life increasingly miserable while trying to convince him a) of God’s existence b) that he should build an arc, because c) yep, you guessed it, a great flood is coming. Of course, this is a studio comedy and not Michael Tolkin’s The Rapture, thus our flood must be man made, safe and correctible. Enter John Goodman as a corrupt politician whose investment in the cavernous suburban space Baxter and his neighbors inhabit included cutting corners on reservoir construction costs and bulldozing a hallowed national park. When the dam breaks, on Sept 22nd (just as God told Noa… I mean Evan), the ark comes to good use and fortunately, although nearly all of metropolitan D.C. is flooded, no one is killed and Evan will surely have more time to spend with is family. I guess…

Although it cost more than the GDP of most Latin American countries, "Evan Almighty" makes few attempts to suggest the real world consequences of Judeo-Christian God’s manifest presence in a these sordid times. Think of the societal chaos that would ensue if a first term congressman grew and oversized beard, built an ark on his property and returned to the capital claiming that God is was bringing the apocalypse, or maybe just a gentle downpour, all to convince us to protect our natural resources. You wouldn’t be the only one laughing, and you’d probably laugh a lot more than you did during the ninety-six minutes that Evan Almighty may steal from your life.