At The Picture Show
What hath God wrought?
And on the eighth day, God decided to just mail it in, and created 'Evan Almighty'
Director: Tom Shadyac
Screenplay: Steve Oedekerk, based on characters created by Steve Koren and
Starring:Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda
Sykes, John Michael Higgins and Jonah Hill
Rated PG / 1 hour, 30 minutes
Opened June 22, 2007
It's sad, really, that in order to make a wholesome family blockbuster about faith
and God, Steve Carell had to sell his soul. And just when things were going so
well for him.
Here we have the most expensive comedy in history, and yet it appears not a dime
was spent on character, story, depth, intelligence, common sense, humor, plot,
creativity or jokes. But $230 million had to have gone somewhere. I'm sure the
cast was well-fed.
The audience, meanwhile, even one craving a little
food for the soul, bears the brunt of the suffering. Because for all the money being
spent on Evan Almighty, it's painfully clear that no one's even trying. No one
cares. No one wants to be there, no one is even trying to make a good movie. They
know it's crap, and they know we know it's crap. And eventually they will look
back on this the same way Jason Bateman recalls Teen Wolf Too.
It's hard to understand how the film went so wrong. On paper, it's clear that the
film is going for something much bigger and more ambitious than the harmless
simplicity of its predecessor, Bruce Almighty (by no means a great movie, but
funny and entertaining enough). Instead of one guy being given God's powers, we
get a full-fledged modern-day Noah's Ark. Everything is on a larger scale. No
effort has been wasted on bankrolling the movie . . . but actually making
something of it? That's a different story.
The "Noah" in this case is newly elected Congressman Evan Baxter (Carell), who
has just uprooted his family from Buffalo to the Virginia countryside and - such
bad timing! - his first week on the job gets recruited by God (Morgan Freeman) to
build an ark for a pending flood. This, of course, complicates matters with his
family (adorable wife played by Lauren Graham, three adorable sons) and the
corrupt veteran Congressman (played by John Goodman) who has taken a liking to
It's not just that he's building an ark in his backyard.
It's that God has played a few little tricks on him, too . . . making animals follow
him two-by-two to his office, making his beard grow in immediately after being
shaved off, making his real clothes disappear in exchange for an Old Testament-chic shepherd's robe. Stuff like that - the beard, the robe - is harmless enough, but
it's nothing more than easy sight gags that require absolutely no thought on the
part of the writer.
(And do you think that when God talked to the real Noah, he made him dress up in
a silly costume, too? Is God really that petty? I think not . . . then again, I'm
nitpicking. Let's move on.)
But with all the lame jokes, flat special effects and unfunny comedians named
Wanda Sykes already on display, the worst thing of all is the cheap, cringe-worthy
ways the film outlines the plot. Consider the early scenes when Evan - just about
ready to start his first day in Washington - promises the kids he'll take them on a
After getting overloaded at the office - looking
absolutely shellshocked that he actually has to, you know, work - what happens?
Aaaaaaawwwh, they can't go on the hike! (But you promised! Sad face. Pout.
Stern look from wife. Surprise from audience, which didn't see that coming at all.)
Evan has to learn his priorities.
(Does he make it up to them? Do they eventually go on that gosh-darn hike?
You'll just have to wait and see!)
Oh, it's so nice to see a film that understands the complexities of balancing work
and family so deeply. Really, that's exactly what life is like. Steve Oedekerk really
has his hand on the pulse of middle-class America.
There is a difference between reaching an audience, and patronizing it. This movie
falls firmly in the latter category. Some, through no fault of their own, won't know
the difference. Evan Almighty is a movie that, perhaps even unwittingly, has
contempt for its audience; it can't give us anything more than a series of
horrendous cliches and plot gimmicks that insult our intelligence. And a story in
which every character - yes, even God - is a complete idiot. I don't think there is a
single non-stupid character in the entire movie . . . with the possible exception of
Eugene (Jonah Hill), who coincidentally delivers the only three or four good lines
in the entire script.
As for Carell, Freeman, Goodman and Co., we'll give
them a collective mulligan. We know they can do better. Carell actually has a brief
cameo in another summer hit, the raunchy comedy Knocked Up; that film is not
only brilliant and touching, but, oddly enough, also has a stronger family message
than does the family-oriented Evan Almighty. Go figure.
Evan Almighty is a bad mixture of The Santa Clause, Ace Ventura and every
saccharine, condescending one-hour family special you've ever seen. See it at your
own risk - but you'll have hell to pay.
Read more by Chris Bellamy