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Almighty hard to fathom

Implausible plot requires a boatload of belief suspension

By Philip Martin

This article was published June 22, 2007 at 3:16 a.m.

evan-baxter-steve-carell-speaks-to-his-audience-as-he-prepares-to-board-his-ark-in-a-comedy-of-biblical-proportions-evan-almighty

Evan Baxter (STEVE CARELL) speaks to his audience as he prepares to board his ark in a comedy of biblical proportions, Evan Almighty.

— Evan

Think about the Bible story of Noah and the Flood.

God told the righteous man that He was ready to declare artistic bankruptcy by wiping the canvas clean. If Noah wanted to go on to the next round he'd better build a big boat and stock it with a male and female of each species. Noah's family could go along for the ride, but the whole point to the exercise was to kill a whole lot of living things.

God was pretty serious about starting over.

And after He'd flushed the world of all the miscreants, He let the waters recede and a rainbow appear in the sky - His promise that He'd never again take a mulligan with our poor benighted planet.

Evan Almighty is more a sequel to that story than it is to Bruce Almighty, the Jim Carrey vehicle of a few years ago which introduced the title character of Evan Baxter (Steve Carell). This is because some people in Hollywood have decided that they need to court a devout Judeo-Christian demographic some perceive as under-served by the usual Hollywood diet of Michael Moore and torture porn.

No doubt there is an audience ready to receive this relatively harmless, absolutely pointless, aggressively stupid, professionally realized pap. It will delight some people who will find it cute and take its casual blasphemies for a sense of humor about religion. It assumes no one will object to a news anchorman who campaigns for Congress while staying on theair, and accepts it as natural when his election provides him with a huge boost in personal income. (Now that Evan is a congressman, he can finally afford a big house and a Hummer!)

God (Morgan Freeman) is just some slightly addled old coot with a twinkle in His eye who'll embarrass you into following His instructions. When newly elected Evan has his Robert-Redford-at-the-end-of-The Candidate moment, he drops to his knees and asks for divine guidance.

God answers his prayer thusly: OK, Congressman, build me an ark and fill it with animals. And wear these funny robes and this Leon Russell look. (Trust Me, it will be funny.)

Actually, Lord, it's pretty painful. But we should understand that while Evan Almighty is a movie kids will want to see,we don't always have to let them have what they want.

If you think you might like Evan Almighty, you ought to be made aware that the filmmakers are counting on your credulity because the plot isn't merely implausible - it makes no sense at all.

If you don't think you'd enjoy Evan Almighty, rest assured that you won't. There's no dark twist or redeeming subversive subplot woven into the story, and not even Freeman - who I guess isn't really God after all - can make it more than a flat and forgettable family comedy with curiously zombielike performances from usually good actors like Wanda Sykes and Lauren Graham and some hoary Sunday School gags that George Burns wouldn't have touched in Oh God! (a film which, in another sign of the apocalypse, is being remade).

MovieStyle, Pages 37, 39 on 06/22/2007

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