Playing the villain in a Jim Carrey movie is usually a thankless task.
So let me take this opportunity to thank Steven Carell, who plays Evan Baxter, the back-stabbing rival of Bruce Nolan (Carrey) for the coveted news anchor position at a Buffalo TV station in "Bruce Almighty."
Under the influence of Bruce's powers of God, Baxter sputters and blabbers his way through the big news story. Thanks, Steven, for the only laugh-out-loud sequence in the whole movie.
"Bruce Almighty" is another mediocre Carrey comedy on the level of "Me, Myself & Irene" and "Liar Liar." Carrey is still the funniest actor working in films today, but it's been seven years since his last really good movie ("The Cable Guy" -- and most people will probably disagree with me on that one).
Directed by Tom Shadyac, the movie starts off promising. Bruce is a hard-working field reporter who is pushing 40 and continually being passed over for promotions by aggressive jerks. He denounces God and receives a pager message to come to an old warehouse where he meets God Himself (Morgan Freeman). The smug Almighty One endows Bruce with his powers, telling him, "If you think you can do a better job, go ahead and try."
Next, we get what we bought the ticket for: Bruce humorously abuses his power, unleashing a swarm of locusts on some bullies, making his rival babble and enlarging his girlfriend Grace's (Jennifer Aniston's) breasts. The first half of the film is pretty funny.
The problem with "Bruce Almighty" is that while Carrey goes all-out, the script -- penned by Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe and Steve Oedekerk -- doesn't. And too often the actor and the writers contradict each other. Carrey plays Bruce as a likable poor shmoe, but the script insists on telling us he's a jerk for abusing his powers.
Come on, this is the 21st century, we LIKE self-absorbed protagonists. If we want to learn that revenge is wrong, we'll watch the next "Star Wars" film.
Title: "Bruce Almighty"
Playing at: Movies 10 at Westgate
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman
Written by: Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe and Steve Oedekerk
Director: Tom Shadyac
Carrey and Aniston have good chemistry, seeming like a married couple right from the beginning. Maybe the chemistry is too good. About halfway through the film, we get a big scene where Grace is hoping Bruce will propose to her. I doubt I was the only person in the theater thinking, "Weren't they already married?"
Then Grace discovers Bruce smooching with a coworker (Catherine Bell). Grace has obviously never seen an American comedy blockbuster, because she's unaware that she's walked in on The Big Misunderstanding needed to push the movie into the final act.
But Bruce can't use his powers to win her back, because he's not allowed to influence free will. Apparently this doesn't apply to a news anchor's free will to read the TelePrompTer.
Carrey gets a couple of good lines, neither of which can be printed in a family newspaper. He fares better than Aniston, who is stuck in the stereotypical wise/moronic love interest role, and Freeman, who at one point has to say the line: "High school kids choosing an education over drugs ... that's a miracle."
Furthermore, God is wearing a Yankees cap! Let's get this straight: God is not a Yankees fan. He's a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.
Although the script occasionally displays smart subversion of religion and TV news, it ultimately resorts to a slew of unconvincing clichs to wrap the story up. It turns out that not even divine intervention can save "Bruce Almighty."
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