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Bruce Almighty (PG-13)
Official Site
Director: Tom Shadyac
Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum
Written by: Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk
Cast: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Anniston, Morgan Freeman, Steve Carrell

Rating: out of 5

So it’s up to you. You’re going to see a movie about a typical, average man who is endowed with all of God’s powers. Who do you want in this role? Well… is there any other choice? Why not simply give it to the funniest man alive? This is where the producers of Bruce Almighty succeeded. Jim Carrey is the perfect man to let run loose with unlimited power because of the potential he possesses. This is the man who could play Hitler and still have us grinning from ear to ear. Let him go all out in such a crazy and limitless role, where one can simply write anything imaginable, where there’s no out of bounds, no unlikely scenarios (we are talking about God’s power after all; I’m pretty sure it’s limitless). Hand it over to Jim Carrey to work his magic. So before I write a word of critique, bravo to the souls who had the imagination for this project, which is based on a rock-solid foundation.

Bruce Nolan is a pushing-40 news anchor who has been subjected to years of human interest stories (if you can call them that). His employment at the local station is looking promising when the head anchor-man retires and leaves a vacant spot that Bruce is drooling over. Not only would it get him the dignity and prestige he deserves, it would also save him from ever having to do another story on the biggest cookie in the world. Things turn south, however, when Bruce’s rival and one-up (Carrell) is awarded the position. Bruce snaps, says some things he shouldn’t say, and gets himself fired (in hilarious fashion). The day drags on with more problems, from getting jumped by a gang to wrecking his car. It all culminates into one sad crescendo where Bruce takes it out on God and accuses him of not caring and not doing his job. The next day God (Freeman) invites Bruce to give the position a whirl for a week to see if he can do any better. He endows him with every last one of his divine powers and sends him back to his life in the real world to learn a lesson. Bruce only uses his power for himself and ends up getting caught up in his fabulous, new lifestyle. He alienates his girlfriend Grace (Anniston) and, what's worse, many of the decisions Bruce has made in answering prayers are coming back to haunt the world. A decision has to be made about what’s best for the world versus what Bruce wants.

For what it is, this movie works. Carrey has re-teamed with his Ace Ventura director Tom Shadyac (Does this mean there’s a possibility for Ace Ventura 3?) and the two seem to pick up where they left off. The film is certainly more family-friendly than Carrey’s earlier work. Bruce is much more Liar Liar than it is Dumb And Dumber. While I would prefer some more Dumb And Dumber material from Carrey, if this is the most outrageous type of film he does for the rest of his career, I’ll be all right. After all, it’s Jim Carrey. If you ask me, the man transcends anything that has come before him. I just find myself watching him on-screen and being fascinated by his natural hilarity and comedy charisma. It almost doesn’t seem fair that one man could be given that much comedic talent for free. Is there a catch? While I continue to be mesmerized by Carrey he, meanwhile, has made a pretty good movie. Shadyac seems able to exploit his hilarity well (but then again, what kid with a camcorder couldn’t?). Clearly Carrey is the best thing that ever happened to Shadyac.

Aside from Carrey’s brilliance, I thought that the supporting cast was good. Anniston does a splendid job as Carrey’s supportive girlfriend and definite better half. I think that, aside from the obvious, she plays the type of girl most guys want, the soothing voice when things get out of control and the loving girl who is always going to be there. Of course Morgan Freeman shines as a very calm and peaceful deity. Although I feel a little uncomfortable with it, if God has to be personified I’m glad it was as this character. And then there’s Steve Carrell of “The Daily Show” and FedEx commercial fame who excels as the typical, hated co-worker. He is also the focus of the funniest scene in the movie when Carrey decides to take over his speech live, on the air. 

In a film where anything is possible there are bound to be some funny scenes and Bruce is no exception. I found the use of special effects to display Bruce’s “miracles” to be right on target and very creative. Scenes like Bruce figuring out how he is going to answer prayers take full advantage of these creative absurdities and are very funny.

On top of typical Carrey sight-gag comedy there are also other more low profile jokes that I enjoyed. The movie obviously has a lot of biblical comedy and I enjoyed the references from Carrey “parting” his tomato soup to his prayer email service being called “Yahweh” instead of Yahoo!

One concern that I had going into this film was the fine line of good taste when making a comedy with this religious subject matter. While the hardcore zealot will find blasphemous and offensive things in this movie, I think that most folks in the Judeo-Christian tradition will not. It certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to being as offensive as a film like Dogma, which simply ridicules the religion itself. As long as you don’t get too hung up on the little things this film should sit well with the religious. Bruce isn’t saying anything about Christianity or God so much as it is using it as a tool to tell a story that goes beyond religion.

Could Bruce have been better? Yeah, probably. It’s definitely not the best Jim Carrey movie ever, but you don’t walk out of Bruce feeling cheated. It’s everything it promises to be and that’s all I ever want out of a movie anyway.

Bottom Line: This is a funny Jim Carrey flick with a good message that I think the whole family can enjoy.

—Corey Herrick


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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