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EVAN ALMIGHTY(director: Tom Shadyac; screenwriters: Steve Oedekerk/based on a story by Mr. Oedekerk/Joel Cohen/Alec Sokolow/characters created by Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe; cinematographer: Ian Baker; editor: Scott Hill; music: John Debney; cast: Steve Carell (Evan Baxter), Morgan Freeman (God), Lauren Graham (Joan Baxter), John Goodman (Congressman Long), Wanda Sykes (Rita), John Michael Higgins (Marty), Molly Shannon (Eve Adams), Jonah Hill (Eugene), Johnny Simmons (Dylan Baxter), Graham Phillips (Jordan Baxter), Jimmy Bennett (Ryan Baxter), Jon Stewart (News Anchor); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Mr. Shadyac/Gary Barber/Roger Birnbaum/Neal H. Moritz/Michael Bostick; Universal Pictures; 2007)
“A tolerable sequel to Bruce Almighty.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A tolerable sequel to Bruce Almighty, that requires a suspension of disbelief. It works better as a message film about providing “Random Acts of Kindness” than as a laugh out loud comedy. It shoots for an offbeat goofy comedy by offering a Sunday sermon relating the Old Testament’s Noah’s Ark story to modern day political corruption regarding the environment. It’s directed by Tom Shadyac (“Patch Adams”/”Liar Liar”/”Bruce Almighty”) and it’s based on a story by Steve Oedekerk (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), who teams with Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow for the screenplay. It comes in at a pricetag of $175 million, which makes it the most expensive comedy ever made.

Steve Carell plays TV news anchor Evan Baxter, who even though he’s naive politically is elected as the new Congressman from Buffalo–wanting to “change the world,” but clueless about how to even start. Evan moves his neat nuclear family to a big house in a new development in suburban Northern Virginia, which pleases his wife Joan (Lauren Graham) but leaves his three sons, Dylan, Jordan and Ryan a bit anxious about being in such a rich neighborhood.

Evan’s life is turned into turmoil when he’s paid a visit by a jovial elderly black man in a white shirt who poses as God (Morgan Freeman), and asks him to build an ark for the soon-to-be-flood. This God is a peachy character, seemingly manufactured from sitcom 101, who blends traits of a New Testament loving one with the milder form of a wrathful deity from Genesis. At first Evan resists, but he can’t anymore after piles of lumber start arriving at his home, animals in pairs start to follow him around (great CGI effects) and he grows a Noah-like beard which he can’t remove by shaving because it grows right back.

His bohemian appearance shakes up his chief of staff Marty (Michael Higgins) and his sassy executive assistant Rita (Wanda Sykes), while his boy-genius staffer Eugene (Jonah Hill) rolls right along with the program. But the one who is most flabbergasted is the film’s heavy, the powerful veteran Congressman Long (John Goodman). Long planned on using the new congressman to help him get a bill though Congress that will swindle the public in a land grab deal and make an enormous profit for himself and the developers who are the movers behind this crooked sweetheart deal.

It was silly and should have been far more funnier than it was, but it’s one of the few films that even attempts to subversively poke fun at America’s politicos while it also is playfully disrespectful of the corporate faith-based crowd who seem to think they are the only ones who communicate with a personal God. Though superficial and its attacks on the system couldn’t be milder, the film has the likable Carell around as an awkwardly bumbling father and modern-day biblical prophet who appears as a robed messiah without a forthcoming apocalypse. The benign rewriting of the Bible and blending it with a belief that it takes a fool to succeed in politics because he might be the only honest one, gave me enough chuckles to be pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed this dumb Hollywood film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”