Since I have a natural aversion to puns, and not to mention the fact that I am not Gene Shalit, I will refrain from calling Evan Almighty anything other than “God awful.” And while I generally refuse to use that phrase in any serious critical capacity, it unfortunately remains the most truthful description one could give.
The movie is a sequel to the 2003 comedy Bruce Almighty, which starred Jim Carrey as a man who is given the powers of God by God (Morgan Freeman). Evan Almighty is the latest example of Carrey’s ability to know when to jump ship (others include Dumb and Dumberer (2003) and Son of the Mask (2005)), and instead follows Steve Carrell as Evan Baxter, a news anchorman in Bruce Almighty, who has recently been elected to Congress. It’s not too long, however, until God comes along, and rather than giving Evan infinite power over the universe, gifts him with the task of building an ark in preparation for a great flood which is coming—in addition to the power to co-opt Noah’s look by appearing more and more like Howard Hughes. From here, the hilarity is supposed to emerge, as Evan is forced to balance his career as a politician with God’s need for an ark.
Unfortunately, the movie is never able to get itself on track, as all the gags float in limbo between lame (Evan’s Noah-like beard grows back instantly as soon as its shaved off, which was already used in The Santa Clause (1994), a Tim Allen film), idiotic (the film has a plethora of animal defecation jokes) and painful (there’s a theater marquee displaying the film title The 40-Year-Old Virgin Mary). Plus, the movie is excruciatingly predictable. Within the film’s first 15 minutes, we learn that not only is Evan a congressman, but an overworked dad without enough time for his family, who also drives a Hummer and has just decided to use wood from old-growth Amazon trees for his cabinets, and who also is about to support a bill that would open up some National Park lands for development. Add in the movie’s heavy-handed religiosity and it’s not too difficult to see where this is headed. It’s just unfortunate that the movie takes about five times longer to realize what the audience already knows.
The cast itself is uneven, with Freeman and Wanda Sykes (Pootie Tang) being the highlights, though I’d be much more shocked to see a movie where Freeman or Sykes aren’t at least the tiniest bit appealing. Carrell, who either works best when he’s subdued (see Little Miss Sunshine (2006)) or when seen in limited doses (as in TV’s The Office), is neither of these things here, and instead comes off as obnoxious and annoying, since the makers are working under the presumption that loud equals funny.
The picture’s most interesting aspect is that, depending on your source, it cost anywhere between $175 and $250 million. Where this money went is beyond me, since much of the animal CGI is hokey (and is it really that difficult to find a real life tarantula?) and the movie’s climactic flood isn’t much better. The price tag, when combined with the film’s environmentalist message, also raises the question of the numerous other, more productive uses one could think of for $175 million. Of course, one would be hard-pressed to find something worse to do with $175 million than make Evan Almighty. Rated PG for mild rude humor and some peril.