Evan Almighty


(6/27/2007)

Everyone"”OK, make that almost everyone"”knows the basic Noah and the Ark story. After all, about once a year "The National Inquirer" or its ilk reports the Bible's most famous ship having been found somewhere. However, the story about God's wrath and the consequent destruction of the world and most of humankind is rarely seen as the stuff of comedy.

That's the original part of "Evan Almighty," a follow-up to the successful Jim Carrey vehicle of several years back, "Bruce Almighty." It lacks Carrey's rubber-faced, plastic-limbed outrageousness and some of the smarmier bits that earned "Bruce" its "PG-13" rating. "Evan" is definitely "PG": most of the "rude humor" has to do with fecal matter"”think bird droppings, dog poop, etc."”and there's no violence, cursing, or sex. In short, this is a kids' movie, though adults will likely find enough to stay mildly amused. Familiarity with the Biblical myth helps, but smaller fry can enjoy it regardless.

As the title figure, Evan Baxter, Steve Carell had a small role in "Bruce," but is probably best known for "The 40-Year Old Virgin" (to which the present film heavily alludes) and TV's sitcom "The Office." Evan's a Buffalo TV news guy recently elected to Congress on the platform that he can change the world. He's excited to discover, upon arrival in D.C., that he has a plum of an office and has been asked to co-sponsor a bill by a genuine Big Cheese, Congressman Long (John Goodman).

So excited, in fact, that he fails to see that, in this case, changing the world means opening up national parks to shady developers. At the same time, he has been receiving some inexplicable items in the mail: ancient carpentry tools and tons of wood are dropped at his front door. Oh, and pairs of animals, foreign and domestic, have taken to following him everywhere. This, along with his demanding new job, earns him the disfavor of his wife, Joan (Lauren Graham), who's annoyed with him for not spending more time with the family.

Eventually, the real Almighty (Morgan Freeman, reprising his role in "Bruce") turns up and explains it all, leaving Evan with a copy of "Ark Building for Dummies," a nonstop hair growth, and finally a robe that makes him look like and Old Testament prophet. This getup and the Big Project in his backyard draw the scornful attention of his neighbors and, of course, the news media, who regard him as another colorful loonie, like the kind on the street corner raving about the end of the world. They mock him ("Evan help us!") and further alienate his wife, who has no desire to become Joan of (the) Ark.

All this is surrounded by lots of wordplay, sight gags, pratfalls, references to Genesis 6:14, and literal herds of animals, real and computer-generated. Director Tom Shayac milks some of these too long, slowing the comic pacing: at 95 minutes"”the blink of an eye by summer blockbuster standards"”the movie feels long. Still, "Evan Almighty" is decent summer fare with an easy moral formula about family values and, you should pardon the expression, saving the earth. One of these steamy days, enjoy it in the cool theater along with the kids.

 

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