I think the following should be made into a rule in Hollywood: Do not make a sequel to a Jim Carrey comedy, unless Carrey is going to reprise his role. Why? The first reason is to prevent the movie going public from seeing a movie like Dumb and Dumberer, which allows the title to speak for itself. Another reason is to prevent Hollywood studios from spending money on Jamie Kennedy vehicles like Son of the Mask. My final reason is so that we can stop pretending that everyone in the United States has the IQ level of a donkey when making family-friendly movies like Evan Almighty.
After being tormented by Bruce Nolan in Bruce Almighty, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) is moving on to bigger and better things as a newly-elected congressman. He moves away from Buffalo with his wife, Joan (Lauren Graham), and their three children in hopes that he can “change the world.” While Baxter has some ideas of what he wants to accomplish while in office, God (Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman) has other plans for the image-conscious goofball: He wants Baxter to build an ark.
Baxter believes he is only seeing and hearing things, until mysterious deliveries of tools and wood begin to appear at his doorstep, God shows up everywhere he goes, and animals of every shape and size are flocking to him two-by-two. It is not long before his self-absorbed life turns into a mystery to everyone but himself, and only those who have faith will turn out understanding that Baxter will indeed “change the world.”
Evan Almighty is coined as a film for all ages. It’s a 96 minute poop joke. The only people that can tolerate 96 minutes worth of poop jokes, and call it friendly fun, are children, because they don’t know any better. Fine, the word poop sounds funny, but I don’t need a movie filled with sophomoric attempts at doodie humor. Someone, whether it is screenwriter Steve Oedekerk or director Tom Shadyac, needs to seek help because there is a rather unhealthy obsession with poop displayed in Evan Almighty. If it’s not a bird taking a crap on a car or a congressman, then it’s a dog is doing it on Baxter’s front lawn, or a newsman is saying, “All these species, what to do with all the feces?” Poop jokes do have a time and place, but this is an overdose of poop jokes.
We know Carell is a true comedic talent from his efforts in hits like Little Miss Sunshine and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It bothers me that he is in this movie because he is above these amateur sight gags, like getting kicked or bitten in the groin by random animals. It also doesn’t seem like he has too much fun with the role, despite the fact that it’s a comedy. He’s not allowed to do his normal raunchy act or let loose, and it really hurts the movie.
The character of Evan Baxter is a great one – in Bruce Almighty. He is the type of guy you love to hate because he’s self-absorbed, cocky, and a complete prick. Now, in Evan Almighty, he is a soft, family man that seems almost too stupid to become an elected official. There is something about him that is not fun any more. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a politician, or maybe it’s just the fact that he goes from Evan to Noah. The story of Noah’s Ark is not a funny one, and just because animals poop anywhere and do silly things, doesn’t mean Evan Almighty is going to be funny.
I am sure Freeman thinks it is fun to play God, but just because he has an Oscar under his belt doesn’t mean he should take any role, even if he’s working with funny people. He plays the character of God with such ease and sophistication, his performance seems misplaced in a movie where the real stars tend to get second billing – all the actors are the clowns that come in to distract you from then animals pooping, only they’re not funny.
Evan Almighty preaches quite a bit, but never crosses the line into any particular religion, nor does it poke fun at religious beliefs. Yes, there is a nice message about reconnecting with family, faith, performing acts of random kindness (or A.R.K.), and cherishing the Earth and its beauty, but it doesn’t go over the lines that some movies cross. However, with a $175 million budget, the filmmakers should be preaching less and praying more for creative ideas – and better special effects. The lack of creativity is on display scene after scene with books like “Ark Building for Dummies” being handed to Baxter by God, and movie titles like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin Mary” appearing on a sign outside of a movie theater. It’s not creative and it’s not funny. Having the cast and animals dance to “Everybody Dance Now,” a 1990 dance song by C&C Music Factory, is not creative, especially when Chevy Chase and George Wendt dance to the same song in the 1995 movie Man of the House.
I firmly believe any movie that places animals, of any kind, ahead of talents like John Goodman, Jonah Hill, John Michael Higgins, or Wanda Sykes is destined to fail. The only thing that could make the movie worse is if those animals started to talk – although, at this point, it probably would help.
The Evan Almighty DVD is flooded with bonus features. That is what it says on the box and it seemed corny enough to say in the review for its special feature section, especially since it is true. It’s good to know that the $175 million budget was spent on something – even though it would have been smarter to start with a good script.
The features begin with 14-minutes worth of deleted scenes, which are basically scenes from the movie that include extra minutes of footage the filmmakers decided not to include for various reasons – possibly because they are funnier than the scenes in the movie, although not likely. My favorite feature on any DVD is the outtake reel, and Evan Almighty provides one. Unfortunately, the reel only lasts a little bit more than two minutes and most of it is Carell hitting his hand with a hammer while building the ark. There was one version of the scene that was very telling. After hitting his finger with the hammer, he pulls away and says, “I can’t say it, I have kids.” Talk about restraint, he can’t even say anything not family-friendly in the outtakes.
In “The Ark-itects of Noah’s Ark,” you learn how many people it takes to build a 450-foot long ark in the middle of a housing development in Virginia, and how it amazes the cast and crew that when people work together, something can be built – even an ark. Who knew? “Becoming Noah” describes the hair and make-up process of how the filmmakers made Evan Baxter become Noah. Everyone goes nuts over the work that was done in the transformation. Personally, I think it looks kind of weird having one guy place hairy patches on another guy, so I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
“Steve Carell Unscripted” is actually a very funny feature – much funnier than anything put in the movie – because it allows Carell to be himself. It is essentially another outtake reel featuring Carell ad-libbing while shooting the film, as well as taking you around the various locations of the shoot. This is exactly what the movie needed more of: Carell being himself. What does the movie need less of? Animals, and that is on display in the feature “Animals on Set Two by Two.” There were more than 200 different kinds of animals and more than 75 different species on the set of Evan Almighty. One thing I found funny was Lauren Graham’s description of coming to work, being on her cell phone and suddenly seeing a water buffalo walk by. She says, “It just doesn’t make any sense.” I agree.
One of the neat features for the kids is the “Animal Round Up Game.” While adults may be bored with this type of feature, kids can have fun playing along. Kids are asked to match pairs of animals and answer trivia questions correctly in order to save the animals and load them on the ark before the flood. It’s a clever feature, especially for a family-friendly movie.
Other features on the disc include, “Acts of Random Kindness,” a feature that has cast members talking about things they’ve done to better themselves and those around them, and “A Flood of Visual Effects,” which obviously talks about the special effects in Evan Almighty. There is another feature that is a skit about the casting of the animals called, “Casting Call: Serengeti,” which really isn’t even worth watching.
If you watch the movie, you may not expect the filmmakers did anything good besides give the movie an ending. But, that is not the case. There are several features that describe how the movie went green to save energy and preserve the environment. “The Almighty Green Set” talks about the cast and crew riding bikes to work, and becoming green on location. “It’s Easy Being Green” has Carell, Graham, Sykes and other cast members doing a sort of public service announcement on saving energy and going green. They advise everyone to do various things, like buying fresh vegetables instead of frozen because they take less energy to cook. “The Almighty Forest” lists every person that planted trees in the Almighty Forest, which is actually a really nice way for the movie to give back to the environment. For a movie promoting the “green” way of life, isn’t it sad that Carell drove around in a Hummer throughout the picture?