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Overall Rating
2.79

Awesome: 1.72%
Worth A Look: 25.86%
Average39.66%
Pretty Bad: 15.52%
Total Crap: 17.24%

7 reviews, 16 user ratings



Evan Almighty
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Us, Morgan?"
1 stars

I once heard a story, possibly apocryphal, about Mark and Michael Polish, the creators of such quirky gems as “Twin Falls Idaho” and the recent “The Astronaut Farmer.” As I vaguely recall, the story goes that when they were seeking funding for their second film, the oddball karaoke-themed road movie “Jackpot,” they kept hearing complaints that their screenplay lacked a proper narrative arc–screenwriter talk for how the main character changes and evolves as the story progresses. When they sat down to put together their next screenplay, “Northfork,” they took this advice to heart and made sure to include such a thing into the storyline. Of course, what they did was to include an actual ark at the center of their story–in other words, a narrative ark. Okay, you may not find the above story as amusing as I do but I can pretty much guarantee that as a source of ark-based humor, it is infinitely funnier than anything on display in “Evan Almighty,” a disappointingly tame and dreary comic fable that proves once again that when it comes to making a screen comedy, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it (and indeed, this is said to be the single most expensive comedy ever made) if you don’t toss some genuine comedic inspiration into the mix as well.

“Evan Almighty” is a quasi-sequel to the enormously popular 2003 comedy “Bruce Almighty.” In that film, you will recall, Jim Carrey played a put-upon schmuck whose bitter complaints to God about his existence (which presumably included dating someone portrayed by the likes of the ultra-bland Jennifer Aniston) led Him (in the form of Morgan Freeman) to temporarily bestow him with His powers with predictably wacky results. This time around, our hero is Evan Baxter, who was one of the supporting characters the first time around and, more importantly, was played by the newly-ascendent-yet-fiscally-bearable Steve Carell. As the story opens, we learn that Evan, who was a pompous newscaster the first time around, has just been elected to Congress thanks to his inspirational campaign promise to “Change The World!” After praying for help and guidance before his first day of work, God (Freeman again) appears to Evan and commands him to build an ark a la Noah, even going so far as to thoughtfully supply the building materials.

Needless to say, this isn’t the kind of help that Evan is looking for but after God begins popping up everywhere to urge him on and pairs of animals begin following him everywhere, he finally takes the hint and begins construction. Of course, his loving wife (Lauren Graham), adorable kids, wacky aides (Wanda Sykes and John Michael Higgins) and wildly corrupt Congressional mentor (John Goodman) are somewhat put off by this sudden change in behavior, especially when it is accompanied by his new tendency to don flowing robes and extremely flowing hairstyles and try to talk him out of this madness. (This seems a bit ungenerous on the part of his wife since she is the one who suggested that he pray for guidance in the first place.) Evan continues on with his mission and after the requisite anguished night of the soul, his family decides to pitch in and help him complete the ark. Good thing that, since God has been sending messages to Evan suggesting that another massive flood will be coming along just in time for a wacky, effects-laden climax.

Those of you with long memories will recall that while many people appeared to love “Bruce Almighty,” I was not one of them. The premise of an ordinary schnook–especially one played by Jim Carrey–being given all of God’s powers was inspired enough but the film never really found a way of mining such a seemingly surefire conceit for anything other than the most obvious gags and eventually dive-bombed into a sea of gloppy sentimentality. (It was as if the first half of the film was written by Bart Simpson on an off-day and the second half was written by Ned Flanders on an off-day.) Alas, “Evan Almighty” doesn’t even have the good grace to give us a promising set-up before disappointing us with the misfired gags and the hard-sell moralizing that seems to have been shoehorned in to attract the audiences that flocked to see “The Passion of the Christ.” There may be an inspired story to tell out there about a goofball neophyte politician who is commanded by God to become a modern-day Noah in the middle of the Sodom that is contemporary Washington D.C. but if such a thing exists, it has eluded writer Steve Oedekerk and director Tom Shadyac (the duo behind “Bruce Almighty” and the insufferable “Patch Adams”). Instead, they have decided to expend their creative gifts on trying to jam in as many jokes as humanly possible in which Steve Carell either falls off of something, smashes his finger with a hammer or finds himself being bitten, kicked or pooped upon by his animal co-stars.

Perhaps they included all of the pratfalls and schtick to distract viewers from the two seemingly insurmountable narrative problems–one theological and one merely logical–that they have written themselves into with this particular premise. For starters, while I do not claim to be a devout student of the Bible in any way, shape or form, I seem to vaguely recall some passage contained therein in which God promises that he will never again send a mighty flood into the world. (Whatever he said, I can almost guarantee that it sounded better in his words than in my fairly inept paraphrase.) Then there is the whole idea of climaxing what is supposed to be a wacky summer family comedy with a potentially devastating flood sent by God to teach mankind a lesson–an idea that may not strike too many people with memories of Hurricane Katrina as a gold mine of comedy. In regards to the former, Shadyac and Oedekirk essentially ignore that question altogether on the assumption that the vast majority of their potential audience have heard the story of Noah’s Ark but not the promise to never send another flood. As for the latter, without giving the third act twist away, I will say that the movie kind of cheats in the way that it sets up one potentially provocative thing and then chickens out by giving us a climax that ensures that viewers get all the flood-related eye candy they could hope for without any of the resident guilt that might get in the way of bringing in enough repeat business to recoup the mammoth financial investment.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of “Evan Almighty” is that the filmmakers have assembled such a winning cast and then left them floundering with nothing to do. Having demonstrated in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” that he has the goods to carry a feature film entirely on his shoulders (and imperfectly groomed chest), Steve Carell inexplicably takes a step back into the kind of role that is so bland and colorless that virtually any SAG member could have pulled it off with nary a difference. If you think that is a waste, wait until you see what dregs they have offered up to the normally sprightly Lauren Graham for her first big post-“Gilmore Girls” film–the dull-as-dishwater wife/mother who offers up encouraging or discouraging words to her doofy husband whenever the script needs help getting from point to point. Morgan Freeman and John Goodman fare a little better in their turns but that says less about the material they have been presented with and more about the sheer professionalism that allows them to go through their moves without betraying any sign of boredom or contempt. All of these people have done fine work before and will not doubt do fine work again someday, perhaps after calling their agents and inquiring as to why they have been forsaken.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15749&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/22/07 14:36:28
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User Comments

8/30/14 Mario is the Best This movie is funny. 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Funny Flick!! 3 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT SAVED BY AN OK CAST AND A DECENT CLIMAX 3 stars
1/11/08 David Cohen If "Oh God" had been written for morons, it would have been Evan Almighty 2 stars
12/29/07 mitul i fail to see the "comedy" in this, and "black woman says funny things" isn't funny at all 2 stars
10/17/07 mb Kinda funny 3 stars
10/15/07 fools♫gold Proof that Steve Carrel wasn't why 40-Year-Old Virgin wasn't funny. 4 stars
10/09/07 Gretchen Seitz Nice parody of... uh, of what?...WHAT?!? Not a parody? Well duh!?! 2 stars
7/10/07 Anthony Feor it's just not funny 1 stars
7/04/07 PamE Carell was terrific and saved the movie, Enjoyed Bruce better, too 3 stars
7/02/07 Blizz About as bland as cinema gets...even worse than BRUCE, which was also shit. 1 stars
6/28/07 gr117 Just wanted to show my appreciation for the "all ark no bite" tagline in one of the reviews 3 stars
6/26/07 Quigley Not as bad as I expected. Carell was great and so was Freeman. "Bruce" was billions better 4 stars
6/24/07 KingNeutron Unequivocal 5 *'s. See it on bigscreen for FX; buy the DVD for the kids. 5 stars
6/23/07 DonnyM 1408 was Sold out. I would rather read to old people. 1 stars
6/23/07 Anthony G Terrible Terrible film. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Jun-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 09-Oct-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Sep-2007



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