Saturday, September 01, 2007

Evan Almighty

Which is the Way to the Ocean?

Surprisingly, Evan Almighty is not a comedy per se. A sequel to the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty, where Steve Carrell played a television journalist Evan Baxter - the one with the rubbery face giving Jim a run for his own money, this movie is sans Jim, and Steve is thrust into the leading role, with writer Steve Oedekerk (the one who gave us androgynous Barnyard cows) providing Evan Baxter a fast track in his career, to that of a newly elected Congressman.

What Evan Almighty is, is serious family drama. For anyone out there working hard (read: workaholic), this story is a reminder on the finer, more important things in life, and that is family ties, and never to neglect your kids as they are growing up. To anyone bringing home the bacon like Evan Baxter (and to feed that fuel guzzler of a vehicle), these work-life balance scenarios are sometimes more myth than can be actually achieved. Building his campaign on the promise of Changing the World, he now has to deliver those election vows, much to the dismay of his wife and kids whom he had uprooted and moved to new suburbia.

And like The Willow Tree - not that this movie is as classic as that - be careful what you wish for from the Old Man upstairs, as sometimes he has a strange sense of humour, or wanting to teach you how to fish rather than grant you that fish himself. Ask and you shall receive, but you know not in what form that wish will come in. There's a poignant moment, for those who make requests from time to time, that the Almighty provides an opportunity for you to achieve something, rather than providing you with that something without you earning for it, or presenting it on a silver platter. Miracles don't come easy nor cheap these days.

Morgan Freeman reprises his role as God. One of my favourite character actors, I felt he has immense presence in whatever roles he takes on, and it's no wonder he's given this manifestation of the supreme being. There was a slight tongue-in-cheek moment in the story where he referred himself as a storyteller of sorts, and those who have followed Freeman's career roles (I've only done so for the last 25 years or so), would know that's a reference to his days as the Easy Reader on the Electric Company.

Thanks to The 40 Year Old Virgin, we do know Steve Carrell is kind of hairy, and as Evan Baxter turns into Noah, this wealth of hair comes into great use. But Steve's not Jim, and the story doesn't allow Steve to exhibit any kind of physical comedy, unless you count the repeated falling from heights funny, or his trying his darndest best to escape from animals who come calling, making him seem like a reel alternative to Eddie Murphy's Dr Doolittle. It takes while for Evan to finally resign himself to God's commandment, and that actually doomed the movie to some uninspiring scenes just going through the motions, which the trailers have more than covered with the skeptics doubting and mocking Evan as Noah. Even Steve's little crazy jig expires after a while.

The supporting cast of John Goodman, Lauren Graham from the Gilmore Girls, and Wanda Sykes all seem to be playing caricatures, and amongst the three, Sykes unfortunately turned out to be the most irritating of the lot, spouting one-liners so bad, you'll cringe in your seat. But one-dimensional characters aside, Evan Almighty did boast some nicely done, especially when you see the ark in its final glory and gets put into some use, reminiscent however of a turkey of a movie in Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Evan Almighty could probably join the list of sequels that shouldn't be made, but tear away its association with its predecessor, it might work as a standalone given the strong human emotions, and its cursory statements on environmental issues should it be paid more attention to. Saving the earth, saving the animals are contemporary themes these days, and with the reminder on performing Acts of Random Kindness, there are moments when watching the movie that you'll nod your head in concurrence.

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