Evan Almighty is a special-effects driven comedy, which wouldn't be a problem if it also had jokes. A quasi-sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty, Evan follows Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), Jim Carrey's rival from Bruce, as he becomes a junior congressman and falls victim to the attention of Morgan Freeman's somewhat capricious God.

In his new house, with his wife and three sons, we see Evan's callous attitude to the environment. Three hundred-year-old tropical hardwood is pretty, dogs are dirty, and a Hummer tricked out with Animal Planet DVDs is appropriate congressional transport. Some of this, at least, changes once God enters the picture. He tells him to build an Ark, as a flood is coming.

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Initially reluctant, Evan is assailed by animals two by two, receives random deliveries from 'Alpha and Omega Hardware' and a suspiciously named timber supplier, then finds himself party to what looks like real estate fraud or wanton property speculation to give him somewhere to build his Ark. Evan finds himself unable to shave in a sequence that seems lifted wholesale from The Santa Clause, and spends time wandering around with a series of beards that resemble everything from fuzzy felt to a door mat.

Evan Almighty cost a fortune, and you can see the money on the screen. There are extended effects sequences, the Ark itself is a technical triumph, and the sheer quantity of animal work and the compositing required to have lions and lambs side by side is astonishing. Despite all the hard work by the special-effects teams, this is lazy film-making.

Morgan Freeman's performance is nothing special. It's still Morgan Freeman, but what might be intended as a sort of ethereal loftiness comes across as mild disinterest. Steve Carell gurns his way through the picture, but as he's effectively the straight man for the joke he's nothing special. Fellow Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are present, and while they've got some of the funniest lines they don't quite convince. John Goodman is the bad guy, but he's got little to do other than bang a gavel, look dispeptic, and produce dubious wolf-related metaphors.

There are few women in the film. Lauren Graham plays Evan's wife, Molly Shannon is a crazed realtor, and Wanda Sykes appears as Rita, Evan's personal assistant. In a series of cut-aways she pronounces upon what Evan is up to in what feels like a desperate attempt to put some jokes in the film. With three writers credited, on top of the original characters from Bruce, there do seem to be too many cooks. Tom Shadyac's direction is at times painful, with bizarrely extended sequences of reaction shots, some of which suggest that his child actors could not stand to be on camera simultaneously. His work on Bruce was all right, but he also bears responsibility for Patch Adams and Dragonfly, and Evan Almighty is definitely at the low end of his output.

There's the germ of an idea here, certainly, and there are some amusing moments, but Evan Almighty draws what little humour it's got from base scatology and clumsy biblical references, which aren't enough to distract from the staggering theosophical questions that are raised. God exists, and, as He puts it, does everything He does "because He loves you". It's doubtless meant to be heartwarming and uplifting, but it comes across as creepy.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2007
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A US congressman is ordered by God to build an ark in preparation for a great flood. Out to own on DVD from November 26.
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Keith Dudhnath **1/2

Director: Tom Shadyac

Writer: Steve Oedekerk

Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett

Year: 2007

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


CFF 2007

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Bruce Almighty