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Evan Almighty Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 April 2008
ImageThe overall premise behind “Evan Almighty” isn’t that almighty. The idea that God has commanded a modern-day man to build an ark is a little weak to begin with.  Since the movie is a comedy, viewers know that there’s not really going to be a hugely suspenseful life-or-death situation.  Maybe if the world was facing a flood caused by Global Warming the idea of building an ark would be more enticing – except that we have lots of boats and ships everywhere, not to mention submarines and aircraft carriers.

So the idea is limited in today’s market.  Putting the ark in a land-locked state, in the middle of a high-class residential community, is a step in the right direction.  But it’s still not mind-grabbing.

The movie is a sequel to “Bruce Almighty”, which starred Jim Carrey.  Carrey was offered the sequel, but turned it down.  “Bruce Almighty” became a steamroller of a movie and did well at the box office.  At $200 million, “Evan Almighty” had twice the budget as its predecessor.  The movie originally started at $140, but the price tag just kept spiraling up.  It was a notable flop, and still hasn’t earned back the initial investment for the studio. A lot of publicity focused on the special effects.  In addition to the computer-generated scenery, the pieces involving real animals are great eye candy.  Unfortunately, special effects and exotic animals don’t make a film.

The best part of the film is, hands-down, Steve Carell.  The actor stars in the TV series “The Office” and appeared in the movie blockbusters “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” and “Little Miss Sunshine”.  Here, Carell plays Evan Baxter, a role he originated in “Bruce Almighty”.  In the sequel, Baxter has been elected to Congress, which  immediately smacks of a plot device.  Baxter’s platform was “Change the World;” and I couldn’t believe that he had any idea how to go about it.  He would have been raw meat for media people and experienced politicians.

Baxter’ didn’t intend to get votes by promising people things he never figured on delivering.  He isn’t a bad guy who’s redeemed.  He’s just Joe Average.  There’s nothing at stake for his character, and nothing for him to prove or learn.

The usual family problems accompany Baxter.  He’s got a new job, so of course he throws himself into it and forgets about the promises he’s made to his wife and three sons.  The friction there is so predictable there’s absolutely no sense of conflict.

Lauren Graham (“Gilmore Girls”) plays Baxter’s wife, Joan.  She’s an excellent actress and portrays family characters best.  Despite the little she was given to work with in the movie, she made the most of it.

Morgan Freeman plays God, reprising his role from “Bruce Almighty”.  He delivers another wonderful job, and doesn’t mind going crazy when the script calls for it.  Watching Freeman do the “dance” that Baxter has a habit of doing is a riot, as are the sequences behind the end credits.  He delivers the dialogue in a great voice, but so much of his role is predictable too.  The sequence of him on the city street, when he appears wherever Baxter looks, is funny.

After reaching Congress, Baxter is assigned a spacious office by Congressman Chuck Long (John Goodman).  Rita Daniels (Wanda Sykes, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) is immediately suspicious.  Goodman does his best to split his time between being affable, threatening, and power-hungry, but he never manages to quite pull off any of those roles.  Sykes scores definite points playing the smart-mouthed associate that offers voice-overs to some of Baxter’s more insane activities.

The movie tends to plod along after the set up.  No surprises reveal themselves.  Much of the animals showing up, the ark getting built, and the wild ride in rampaging waters was shown in trailers.  The most fun offered is Carell’s portrayal of the beleaguered Baxter.  The looks, mugging for the camera, rolling eyes, and put-upon air he displays are art.

The HD presentation is excellent.  The color and scope of the movie provides a ton of visual treats, and the HD format makes the most of them.  Moving from urban areas to suburban, and with the CGI of the flood thrown in as well, the film looks striking.

The audio portion rocks and rolls to the beat of several familiar songs, such as John Fogerty’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”, Plumb’s version of “Spirit in the Sky”, and ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”.  The surround sound system kicks out the music from the score and livens up the scenes.  The sound effects are amazing, especially the noise of the flood waters smashing against the ark and the rush of the water.

The DVD Combo comes packed with Special Features.  The “Deleted Scenes” contains material that got dropped from the movie, but there are some really funny lines in there.  If you’re not really into Special Features, you have to make an allowance for the “Outtakes”.  Steve Carell saves this film on many levels, but he and the other actors are fantastic in these brief moments of sheer fun.

“The Ark-itects of Noah’s Ark” delivers a lot more information than I’d expected.  The fact that the ark was actually built to scale and used as a set was totally mind-blowing, and it’s nice to watch it built in a more relaxed environment rather than running through it in the movie.  “Becoming Noah” was interesting as well, especially seeing how the hair and beard makeup was done.

“Steve Carell Unscripted” was cute, but way too short.  I could have watched him adlibbing a lot longer than he got the chance to here, but it was nice to have.  “Animals On Set Two By Two” is a solid inclusionfor information junkies who want to know what the animal handlers, director, and actors had to deal with.  The “Animal Roundup Game” is a simple match and trivia-based game for kids and parents.

“The Almighty Green Set” details the steps the cast and crew took to go “green” as much as they could during the filming.  The wood from the ark was donated to Habitat for Humanity.  “It’s Easy Being Green” is more environmental information and examples of things most people can do to help the environment.

“Acts of Random Kindness” is a short piece featuring stories by the cast and crew that show that.  The special effects shown in the movie are revealed in “A Flood of Visual Effects”.  The piece is long enough to get into a lot of the thinking as well as the problems the designers faced.  “Casting Call: Serengeti” is a brief farce that’s worth taking a look at.  “The Almighty Forest” lists the individuals and companies that visited www.getonboard.org and planted a tree in the Almighty Forest.

“Evan Almighty” isn’t a must-see DVD, but it’s definitely a family- oriented one that most will enjoy.  The message about the environment, animals, and morals is a little heavy, but they’re still all good messages.

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