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EVAN ALMIGHTY
U.S. Release Date: June 22, 2007
Distributor: Universal
Director: Tom Shadyac
Writer: Steve Oedekerk, Joel Cohen (story), Alec Sokolow (story)
Producer: Gary Goetzman (executive), Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Michael Bostick, Neal H. Moritz, Tom Shadyac, Tom Hanks (executive)
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Jonah Hill, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Ed Helms
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (mild rude humor and some peril)

Religious Sequel Sinks in Sanctimony
by Scott Holleran

Easily the worst picture of the year is the fundamentalist Christian comedy Evan Almighty, as humorous as a Christian comedy sounds. Blending crude jokes, Bible-thumping and environmentalism, this sloppy sequel to Bruce Almighty puts the religious to the profane instead of using good humor against a broad canvass.

An upstate New York politician (Steve Carell) is chosen by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark for animals like Noah in the Bible. Without giving up the inane plot, God is basically trying to promote environmentalism. If it sounds like a commandment to avoid offending both liberals and conservatives, it plays that way, too, tossing in tasteless jokes—a reference to a 40-year-old Virgin Mary and an anthrax joke—along the way.

The idea is that one person, Carell's newly-elected congressman, can change the world—but only on one condition: he must not think, he must have faith. His religious wife and his kids eventually come to believe but not the Virginia villagers who understandably think he's a lunatic for building the ark. But, boy, do they have it coming for refusing to repent their supposed sins in a mini-apocalypse that recalls Katrina's disaster. You half expect to see Senator Sam Brownback on the producers' credits (that falls to Tom Hanks).

Causing man's impending doom—and, despite God's insistence that he's not on the warpath, that's what it is, though the widespread death and destruction are mostly unseen—is of course a corrupt politician (John Goodman) trying to profit from the use of private land, an American idea that's predictably distorted and ridiculed here.

Changing the world—Carell's campaign slogan—is impossible to take seriously as the movie's theme with a main character who shows up for his first day on Capitol Hill expecting to be home by 4:30 for a nature hike with the family, though it does add credibility to the depiction of a derelict member of Congress. Carell's congressman also changes in appearance, though what this adds and why it's necessary to God's plan is unclear. In his brown beard, long-hair phase, he looks like a cross between an old G.I Joe and Michael Douglas in The China Syndrome.

God's not much better, lollygagging, playing jokes on people and letting villages be decimated in the name of government intervention. Mr. Freeman does what he can to have fun—Wanda Sykes steals every scene with her sharp delivery as Carell's aide—but Evan Almighty is more of a pain than a joy. God, who says he likes wordplay, claims to seek random acts of kindness—but ultimately free will buckles to his notion that almighty means might makes right. After Evan expresses doubt, God barks: "build an ark." Thou Shalt Kneel is this picture's credo.

In that sense, it's quite religious, emphasizing renunciation of selfishness when it's not plugging NBC Universal parent company General Electric—tying the noble company's name to the Bible—and NBC affiliates. That's what made this ill-conceived movie particularly nauseating for this viewer, besides the hippie politics. The movie's animals, whose pointlessness is matched by their inconsistent behavior (sometimes they dog Evan, sometimes they don't), are a drag.

When somebody pleads "this has got to stop," it's like a lone voice of reason beckoning the audience toward the exits in a movie made for fundamentalists who crave a little trash with their Sunday sermon.


REVIEWS OF SIMILAR MOVIES:
Dan in Real Life
Actors Charm in Family Fare
Bruce Almighty
Submission to Oh, God


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