a critiQal film review Evan Almighty (2007)

Plot: Newly elected to Congress, Evan (Carrell) leaves Buffalo behind and moves to Virginia. But, when God (Freeman) appears before him and commands him to build an ark, will his family believe him, or think he's finally lost it?

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Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to wait for DVD for Evan Almighty, the new family-fun sequel to Bruce Almighty (2003). Despite it’s obvious lack of Jim Carrey, this one was on “Long Wait” at Blockbuster® ever since hitting DVD. Finally we received a copy and sat down to find out if this film, while looking pretty funny in previews, would turn out to be worth watching. Or would this Steve Carell-lead sequel would be as disappointing as the US version of “The Office” (TV)?

Steve Carell shows us another side to the character Evan Baxter in this film. In Bruce Almighty (2003), he was more reminiscent of his character from “The Office” (TV), playing his scenes with a more understated humor (although in Bruce Almighty (2003) he was actually funny). With Evan Almighty he tends toward the more antics-gone-wild Jim Carrey wannabe version, which he isn’t half bad at (although his face isn’t nearly as pliable as Jim’s). Here, his character Evan is a lot wilder and rarely lets the Evan from the first film peek out – so that when it does, it makes those times all the more interesting. He gives his wild man persona a heart with those gestures.

Morgan Freeman returns as God in Evan Almighty, and again drops nuggets of wisdom and advice while being enigmatic, and steals every scene he’s in. Lauren Graham, as Evan’s doubting spouse, seems to have taken her character from “The Gilmore Girls” (TV) and kept it pretty much intact in her transfer to the big screen. She does a decent job, as most will be able to picture her as exactly the same person she was in that show, but that’s about it. She’s still in TV mode, and seems a little bit small for the big screen.

The rest of the characters, including John Goodman and Wanda Sykes, have less-than-memorable scenes in Evan Almighty, and seem to be there mainly to play “straight man” to Carell’s funnyman. Sure, Wanda’s razor sharp wit breaks through at some points of the film, but they tend to be more asides than anything. The movie is funny enough with Carell to not need any levity provided by those add-ons, and they just seem to be completely wasted.

While viewers will enjoy the hilarity that ensues as Evan begins transforming into Noah and he goes about the business of building an ark, it’s nothing really new. After all, haven’t we seen this same transformation before (albeit with a Christmas theme) in The Santa Clause (1994)? That’s unfortunate, as Evan Almighty doesn’t really have much to back up that transformation, whereas The Santa Clause (1994) had a great plot and handfuls of decent minor characters behind that transformation.

For Evan Almighty, the plot seems secondary at best. Obviously, the filmmakers thought of the idea of turning a button-down Congressman into the wild and wooly looking Noah first and foremost, then added in the rest as an afterthought. Why is Noah building the Ark – what is the Flood for? Will it rid the Earth of corruption, or is it looking for cleanliness on a smaller scale?

Sure, Evan Almighty answers these questions, but none of the characters have actually posed the question anywhere in the film. Why not? If someone was building an Ark, wouldn’t that be the first question? Why? Because there is a flood coming. Why a flood? What’s it cleaning? Apparently, these characters are too simple to even wonder why.

With an incredible lack of depth, Evan Almighty stays to what it knows: people like watching animals do people tricks. That’s the center of a long montage (of course set to the upbeat music of “Are You Ready For A Miracle”, among other catchy ditties) that occupies a good portion of the middle of the film. Whee! Watch the monkeys do everything from push logs to drink milk with Evan! Watch the scary lions do guard duty, frightening an insipid reporter!

Put that all together and what have you got? Light and fluffy entertainment, good for the whole family. Don’t read too much into Evan Almighty, just sit back and laugh, as you would at your favorite sitcom.

Just don’t go in expecting miracles and think it’s going to be better than (or even in the same ballpark as) it’s predecessor Bruce Almighty (2003).

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