Evan Almighty **1/2
Directed by Tom Shadyac
Written by Steve Oedekerk
Steve Carell as Evan Baxter
Morgan Freeman as God
Lauren Graham as Joan Baxter
Johnny Simmons as Dylan Baxter
Graham Phillips as Jordan Baxter
Jimmy Bennett as Ryan Baxter
John Goodman as Congressman Long
Wanda Sykes as Rita
John Michael Higgins as Marty
Jonah Hill as Eugene
Molly Shannon as Eve Adams
Ed Helms as Ed Carson
96 Minutes(Rated PG for mild rude humor and some peril).
"Evan Almighty" is yet another sequel to a Jim Carrey film without Carrey in it. And they have always failed, even if "Evan Almighty" does have shades of enjoyable placed throughout. One main reason for its success if because it is actually using characters, not just concepts, from the first and giving them their own story. For example the only thing that connected "Son of the Mask" to "The Mask" was the actual mask, and Ben Stein. Considering the Ben Stein scene is always cut from the network television versions, I'm surprised that anybody even remembers that he was in the first. I guess he was the only actor that was willing to partake in the second, but that is for a review of a different movie. "Evan Almighty" takes advantage of the second best half of the film-Steve Carell, and if you haven't seen "Bruce Almighty" since it came out in 2003, you might even forget that he was in it. He was a nobody back then, and when "Anchorman" came out and he popped up I would say "Oh, it's that guy from Bruce Almighty." It wasn't until "40 Year Old Virgin" and "Little Miss Sunshine" or even "The Office" where he actually became a name. Yes, he was in "Bruce" as Bruce's biggest enemy-Evan Baxter.
Evan Baxter is still a newscaster, but this is his last broadcast as he is now taking the family away from him home in Buffalo and bringing them to Washington D.C, where he has just been elected congressman. His family is a little upset about leaving, but his wife is hopeful. And then a few days in, after work has already cut into family time, Evan is visited by God himself (Morgan Freeman, who in some cases should actually be God.) God wants Evan to build an arc, because on September 22nd, around midday, there will be a flood. Evan is not interested in doing it, and thinks the whole thing is all a joke, but eventually he comes to terms that this is God and that he has a mission. He begins to build an arc in his spare time, but finds that his beard is constantly growing no matter how much he shaves, animals follow him around in twos everywhere he does, and God has given him a strange robe to wear even when he leaves his house to go to congress meetings, all while getting his suspicious eye from Congressman Long, who wants to pass a bill that has more to it than it seems.
"Evan Almighty' is successful because of the delivery by all the actors. Steve Carell is a fantastic comedian and one of the funniest men around right now, but his supporting cast also has a great time as well. One is Wanda Sykes, whose rapid delivery and clearly improvised lines are some of the films best scenes. And then there is John Michael Higgins who ended up stealing the entire film in his two scenes in last years "The Break Up" has a nice supporting job as well. The script does head towards a more family friendly structure as opposed to the sometimes extremely raunchy "Bruce Almighty," but it does have a very good environmental message and one that I do actually care about. There is a lot of word play-God calls himself "Al Mighty" at one point, a movie theater advertises "The 40 Year Old Virgin Mary," and there is a lot to do with Genesis 614. Some of it is clever, even if the 614 thing got a little old after a while. There are about 100 musical montages of the family building the arc, which I could have lived without, but it is a big boat, and the soundtrack is all recycled family tunes from the past. i could have really lived without what Evan refers to as "the dance." It is in the trailer once, but I did not expect the five other times that "the dance" pops up, always an awkward and unfunny few seconds. At least there were no corny innuendos that always seem to pop up in these films.
I suppose the main problem with the film is the lack of any character development. "Bruce Almighty" actually had a plot and a resolution, and there was development with the Carey character. The problem I had from the very beginning, even when I first heard they were making this sequel, was that they use the Evan character. In the first film Evan was a jerk. And he seemed like he was a jerk no matter where he went, and in the end while him and Bruce have an understanding, he is still supposed to be a jerk. Not only is he not a jerk anymore, but he has a wife and three kids, which means that he had some kids and a wife when the events of "Bruce Almighty' occurred. And now this hate-able character is suddenly likable with no real shift or development. Perhaps if they started the film with him as a somewhat bad guy and than shift his attitude as the film passes. I just still can't shake that concept, no matter how stupid it does sound. The only thing that stays the same with Evan's character is his name, but I guess you have to forgive somethings in a family film such as this. Flaws and all, there was something consistently entertaining about the whole show, and it did hold my attention for the entire ninety minute run time. "Evan Almighty" is decent family fare and there are worse ways that you could spend a brief amount of time at the movies with the family.