Bruce Almighty

Reviewed By The Ultimate Dancing Machine
Posted 05/23/03 08:42:38

"Jim Carrey is God? What happened to Eric Clapton?"
3 stars (Average)

Though saddled with one of those stupid "high concept" ideas that always sound better on paper, BRUCE ALMIGHTY is a reasonably entertaining film if you don't think about it too much. That probably won't be a problem for you: this is a forgettable if pleasant movie, one that deftly avoids making any kind of substantial comment on theology; instead, it hews closely to standard feel-good Hollywood business, complete with paint-by-numbers Syd Field-ish plotting. Given that, it's not too bad a film, really.

Jim Carrey makes the best of a very broad premise: he's a down-on-his-luck TV personality who becomes imbued with the powers of the Almighty when God (Morgan Freeman--and by the way, the black-guy-as-God is a pretty old joke) tires of his constant whining. Now able to do virtually anything, Jim goes about rearranging things his way, and uses his powers to try to patch up his relationship with his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston), only to find that the God-business isn't as easy as it looks.

BRUCE ALMIGHTY doesn't explore the possibilities of this idea nearly enough, and it casually raises all kinds of theological questions that it can hardly answer--for example, if Jim can't interfere with the "free will" of another person, then how can he sabotage a rival's on-air newscast by putting nonsense words in his mouth? It's hard to do comedy when there are so few ground rules, which is certainly true here; you could conceivably keep well occupied during this film by continually asking yourself, "If he's God, why doesn't he just...?"

The film's view of the office of the Almighty is safely non-partisan and not terribly well thought out; perhaps the Calvinists in the audience might be displeased by its views on free will, but BRUCE ALMIGHTY is basically advocating that vaguely New Age-ish spirituality Hollywood always brings out when it's trying not to offend. (Really, the only people who will be offended by this essentially innoculous movie will be the people who always insist on being offended.) When we're told that Carrey's powers as God only take effect in the Buffalo area where he lives, you know the writers had painted themselves into a corner.

But the premise has one huge advantage: it gives Jim Carrey the greatest possible leeway to do his patented spastic funnyman act. Carrey isn't really playing God in this movie; he's playing himself. You've seen this shtick before--but it works fairly well in this movie; at least he's not straining to wring laughs of out every line like he did in ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS. A lot of Carrey's bits in this film seem improvised, and though many fall flat, quite a few of them don't. He earns his paycheck in this film--without him, BRUCE ALMIGHTY would be just another assembly-line Hollywood product. Actually, it is that--but Carrey's presence saves it from total mediocrity.

Overall, it's a rickety film, but it has its inspired moments.

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