Bruce Almighty (2003)

13 Mar

bruce-almighty

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Now here’s an interesting premise for a Jim Carrey vehicle—Jim Carrey is given God’s powers. Think of all the possibilities that could come out of that idea alone. Director Tom Shadyac, who also worked with Carrey on “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Liar Liar,” doesn’t use every element that could have made “Bruce Almighty” one of the funniest movies of the decade, but there are still a few good ideas and some big laughs from Carrey’s physical humor.

We get a long opening forty minutes in which we get to know Bruce Nolan (Carrey). He’s a human-interest reporter for Buffalo’s Channel 7 Eyewitness News who doesn’t get much respect or have much luck. On one particularly bad day in which he humiliates himself, loses his job, and crashes his car, he snaps at God. That’s when his pager goes off to an unfamiliar number. But even when the number appears on his pager after it seems to be broken, Bruce can’t help but call. Bruce is led to an empty building where, as it turns out, he is arranged to meet God in person. God (Morgan Freeman) wants to go on vacation so he decides to give Bruce his powers for a few days.

Almost predictably, Bruce does not do a very good job at being God. After all, why waste time with starving children when he can lift a woman’s skirt up and humiliate his snooty co-worker (Steve Carell)? There’s also a funny subplot in which Bruce teaches his non-housebroken dog to use the toilet. And “Bruce Almighty” is never subtle—for example, Bruce’s nice (“angelic,” if you will) girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) works at a daycare center and aptly named “Grace.” Also, some of the soundtrack features songs about religion, miracles, and power (including, of course, Aretha Franklin’s “Are you Ready for a Miracle”).

My question is why couldn’t the filmmakers come up with more ways for this character to explore the ways of being God? Why not have him travel to other planets? Or stop time? I can think of many other ways these great powers can be explored. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of “Bruce Almighty” create an overly dramatic final half that tries for Capra-esque quality, but doesn’t quite make the cut and seems like another movie. There are obvious jokes that are put into the movie and a blooper reel that shows that the filmmakers are desperate to make people laugh. Some of the jokes don’t really work as well as we’d like them to.

Even though “Bruce Almighty” didn’t go where it should’ve gone, I am recommending it because there were more than three occasions (I lost count) where Jim Carrey had me laughing loudly. He’s back to his mugging and body language that made him a star in the first place. After taking dramatic roles in movies like “The Truman Show,” “Man on the Moon,” and “The Majestic,” he’s back to his rubber comic personality. I loved Morgan Freeman’s performance as God—kind of a twinkling, calm version of the Big Man Upstairs. “Bruce Almighty” is a bit of a lost opportunity, but I am giving it a mild recommendation. I did laugh.

NOTE: You know, with all I’ve said, I am aware that I am giving “Bruce Almighty” three stars while I gave other “lost opportunities” lower ratings. Well, those movies did not have Jim Carrey to lighten the mood. As inconsiderate as they may sound for the other movies I’ve reviewed that almost got the same treatment, I’m sticking by this recommendation. But one of these days, I will die and then I’ll allow God to smite that lousy star-rating system.

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