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Abandon ark!

Sequel to â€Å"Bruce Almighty” is truly awful

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Oh, my God, this movie sucks.  I’ll say this much: Kudos to Jim Carrey for pulling off perhaps the most amazing disappearing-act hat trick in motion-picture history.  With his non-appearance in “Evan Almighty,” the follow-up to the smash hit “Bruce Almighty” (2003), Carrey has now NOT appeared in three of the worst sequels of all time: “Dumb and Dumberer,” “Son of the Mask” and “Evan Almighty.” 

Talk about dodging bullets. 

To be fair, this is the least awful of that horrific trio — but that’s kind of like surviving a car wreck and saying your fractured toe isn’t as painful as your shattered spine or your missing nose.  “Evan Almighty” is a paper-thin alleged comedy with a laugh drought of biblical proportions, and a condescendingly simplistic spiritual message.  It is so bad, I came close to throwing my caffeinated beverage at the screen. 

Before vivisecting the meat of the story, let’s examine just one small visual joke.  As you probably know, the talented and likable everyman Steve Carell of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” who had a small but hilarious supporting role as insincere anchorman Evan Baxter in “Bruce Almighty,” takes center stage here.  After Evan has an initial encounter with God, played by Morgan Freeman in the very definition of a check-cashing role, he passes a movie marquee. 

Now it’s a time-honored tradition for directors to have a little in-joke fun with film buffs via movie marquees.  It’s a sly way of winking at the audience. 

In “Evan Almighty,” the marquee advertises a movie called “The 40-Year-Old Virgin Mary.”  But we don’t just truck past that marquee; we zoom in and linger on it.  There might as well be a subtitle blaring, “Get it?  We’re referencing Steve Carell’s hit movie and we’re making a biblical pun!”  “Road Runner” cartoons are more subtle. 

That annoyance is indicative of a larger problem, i.e., there’s no movie here — just a concept that holds little promise and can’t even deliver on those low expectations.  In “Bruce Almighty,” Evan seemed like the kind of jerk who would have been played by Chevy Chase 20 years ago.  The opening sequence of “Evan Almighty” holds true to that characterization.  Having somehow survived his Bruce-induced on-air meltdown, Evan is still on the air in Buffalo.  After his co-anchor (the beautiful Catherine Bell in a two-minute cameo) introduces a montage of scenes that serve to inform us Evan has won election to Congress, Evan then turns to camera, with a glycerin tear on his face, and says, “I feel just like that old Indian standing in front of all that garbage.” 

It’s a dated but admittedly funny line, referencing the famous anti-littering commercial from our childhood.  We think: OK, Evan’s a pompous, cynical ass, and now he’s a congressman.  Wait until God gets hold of him! 

But then that Evan Baxter disappears and is replaced by an apparently decent and idealistic family man with a loving wife (Lauren Graham) and three sons who worship him.  Granted, Evan is all too willing to co-sponsor an environmentally unfriendly bill championed by a fat-cat congressman (played by John Goodman) — but he’s not a bad guy, nor does he seem to be in any kind of serious crisis.  He’s just the 1,234th variation on the ambitious husband/father who disappoints his wife and children because he has to work late so they’ll have to cancel that much-anticipated hiking trip.  (Memo to Hollywood executives: When a kid is about 14, he’s not all that keen to spend every waking moment with his dad anyway.) 

Out of the blue, God/Morgan appears and tells Evan to build an ark.  He supplies Evan with the materials, the tools and even the land on which to construct the gigantic boat.  The movie could have been called “God Is My Co-Signer.” 

At first Evan doesn’t believe he’s really talking to God, nor is he eager to build the ark.  That reluctance fades after a few days, what with Evan growing a long beard that cannot be shaved, not to mention the flowing robes he can’t seem to shed, and the animals of all species that keep showing up in pairs and following him around.  This scenario creates a major problem for the movie.  Evan’s wife thinks he’s crazy — so why doesn’t he just pull her into the bathroom and show her that every time he shaves his beard, it magically reappears?  His staffers think he’s losing it — so why doesn’t he just point out that one does not grow three years’ worth of hair in a week, and that giraffes and rhinos and tigers are not indigenous to the greater Washington, D.C., area? 

The media and the neighbors laugh at Evan — even though he’s building an ark the size of a football stadium with only the help of his three young boys and exotic animals who are capable of carrying supplies and performing other construction tasks.  You can’t have everyone thinking your main character is crazy “if everyone sees that he is experiencing a series of miracles!!”  It kinda kills the comedy. 

When an image of the Virgin Mary appears on tree bark, people weep and pray and burn candles.  You get a Noah look-alike building a working ark while animals pair up all around him: He won’t get mocked — he’ll be nominated for instant sainthood.  It makes no sense that virtually everyone in the movie is laughing at Evan.  Nearly every time “Evan Almighty” paints itself into a corner, the solution is to have a dog chomp Evan’s crotch or a bird drop doo-doo on a bad guy.  (There are a LOT of scenes of animals crapping or spitting in this film.)  Or they go extra cutesy with animal-reaction shots or fortune-cookie wisdom. 

Eventually we learn why God commanded Evan to build the ark.  It’s a really stupid explanation.  We also get an extended special-effects sequence, with the ark careening through Washington.  It’s a really dumb, albeit expensive-looking, meshing of stuntwork and CGI.  There’s also an ongoing bit about Evan doing “the dance,” an unfunny little move that would be hokey in a subpar sitcom. 

Finally, mercifully, the end credits roll, with behind-the-scenes shots of the cast and crew grooving to “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by the C+C Music Factory.  They all look like they’re having a great time.

Evan Almighty


Starring; Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman and Lauren Graham

Director; Tom Shadyac

Rated; PG for mild rude humor and some peril

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