Usually when I see those people passing out flyers for the free screenings, they tend to be promoting films that I’m not that interested in and mind you I live in Sacramento so we don’t tend to get anything that’s considered huge. Last week I got a flyer for a screening and the representative said that this film was top secret but “it is going to be a huge sequel.” So, I went into this screening thinking I would be seeing something like “Shrek the Third” or “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Instead I showed up to a film brimming with small children under the age of 12, this was a clue it wasn’t “Harry Potter.” As I started to notice all the men in suits and director Tom Shadyac I knew that something was not right. As it neared the time of the screening a rep came up to the front of the theater and said we would be seeing a work print of the film “Evan Almighty,” the sequel to the hit “Bruce Almighty.” The film we would be seeing would be a “work print” without all the CGI finished and a sample soundtrack, supposedly we were the first group ever to see this film. While I wasn’t too thrilled to see this I was excited to see my first “work print.” Sadly, I wish I could have just said no.
Disclaimer: I did see a “work print” so the CGI could enhance this film, also scenes that I saw could be removed or replaced.
“Evan Almighty” follows one time anchor Evan Baxter played by Steve Carrell. In “Bruce Almighty” Evan was one of Bruce’s foes. In this film Evan has left his comfy job as a news anchor to go to Washington DC and become a congressman. After moving the somewhat fractured family, consisting of his wife played by Lauren Graham and three sons, Evan gets wrapped up in the political drama and becomes more distanced from his home. When large amounts of wood show up in his front yard Evan receives a visit from God played by Morgan Freeman. God tells Evan that there will be a large flood coming and that Evan is to build an ark. After trying to resist God’s wishes Evan slowly starts to grow a beard and become the embodiment of Noah. As he starts to slowly construct the arc he has to be able to keep his job, his family together, and stop an evil land developer (John Goodman) from ruining everything.
I actually had a hard time finding something to enjoy about this film. Seeing as how the theater was mostly comprised of children under the age of 12 and the ensuing focus group consisted of young children this is definitely a family film. The film is pretty much a modern day Bible story retelling the story of Noah and the Ark and this could be a great Sunday movie for families. The story does move at a quick pace being only about an hour and a half.
Sadly this is being marketed as the sequel to “Bruce Almighty” when it is anything but. They make virtually no mention of the original film, only having the female anchor from the original show up for about a minute and Morgan Freeman reprising his role as God. The great thing about the original “Bruce Almighty” was that he was a bitter man who got a taste of his own medicine. Evan only receives his “mission” because he doesn’t spend enough time with his family supposedly. Also, Evan was the antagonist in the first film, whereas now he’s just your standard overwhelmed father. The humor in the film is very few and far between and is marketed for young kids. In fact this whole movie could be a G film. Also the film becomes very religious in the third act with its discussions about faith and repenting. This will definitely go over younger kids’ heads and takes the film in a very somber direction. This film could have been great but has just become one in a pantheon of unnecessary sequels that ruins an original film.
The actors try to do what they can with the material but a lot of them fall flat on their faces. Steve Carrell, normally funny doing anything, has three main tools of humor in this film including yelling and making funny faces. He is not a physical humor type of guy and it shows in this film. Lauren Graham plays the typical frazzled wife, not showing any of her “Gilmore Girls” excellence. The only somewhat humorous character in this whole film is Wanda Sykes as Evan’s secretary Rita. Sykes has some chuckle worthy scenes and I would have liked to see her save the movie a bit more. John Goodman is probably the worst of the bunch as the greedy politician, hamming it up for the camera and playing the typical villain.
“Evan Almighty” fails because it became something it wasn’t, a cliché film about an overworked father transforming into a larger than life character to reconnect with his family. It actually reminded me a lot of the Tim Allen film “The Santa Clause.” This film should also not be marketed as a sequel because it has almost no relevance to “Bruce Almighty.” I would say wait till June 22nd and see the commercials beforehand. If you’re into semi-religious family films then this is for you. If you want some truly genius humor above the mindset of a child I would avoid this like the plague.