Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
I am the sort of person who loves a good sneak preview. I’m always looking out for the guys passing out flyers, offering people a chance to see a free movie. So one Saturday night when I spotted just such a person, I immediately went over and asked what he was promoting. He said, “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but believe me it’s gonna be a HUGE summer sequel.” So as I reserved my seats and began to anticipate the event, I thought of all the huge movies it COULD have been, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek the Third or — did I dare to dream — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
On the night of the screening, the man running the preview finally revealed to us that the movie in question was…Evan Almighty, the sequel to the hit film with Jim Carrey, Bruce Almighty. Though disappointed, I nonetheless remained optimistic, thinking to myself, “I enjoyed the first one… and I love Steve Carell… maybe it won’t be so bad.” As I walked into the theater, I even saw EA 's director, Tom Shadyac, greeting guests. That had to be a good sign, right? I mean, if the movie were terrible, the director would be hiding out somewhere, wouldn't he? Having thus convinced myself, I settled down and prepared for what I was sure would at least be a somewhat tolerable cinematic experience.
How wrong I was. As much as I enjoyed Bruce, Evan left me so cold I might never see a Shadyac film again.
LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD!!
Evan Almighty follows the villain from the first film, Evan Baxter, as played by Steve Carell. In the first movie, Evan was the ambitious news anchor trying to steal Bruce’s job. Well in the sequel, he has decided to leave his cushy job as head anchor and move to Washington D.C. to work in Congress (for some reason). He packs up the wife (Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham) and sons and moves, not only because of his job, but also to “reconnect” his family. Everything seems to be coming up roses for Evan, except for a two-faced land developer (John Goodman) who begins scheming behind his back, and oh yeah, God (Morgan Freeman) telling Evan that a flood is on the way and he (Evan) needs to build an ark.
That is pretty much the gist of the movie, and believe me there are no big surprises or twists coming from anywhere. Where does this movie ultimately go wrong? Perhaps the best way to explain this is in a format that the filmmakers will surely understand: Commandments.
COMMANDMENT 1: Thou Shalt Not Ignore the Original Movie – For some inexplicable reason, Evan Almighty completely disregards its predecessor, Bruce Almighty (though this MIGHT have something to do with Jim Carrey and Jennifer Anniston's refusal to reprise their roles). Aside from the returns of God and Evan Baxter, there is no connection to the first film. Bruce is never mentioned and Evan only is a news anchor for the first two minutes. To me, it seemed like there was no reason to make this a sequel at all; an entirely new cast could have been brought in and made a completely original movie. But, since they went to such pains to promote it as Part 2, I would have loved a couple references from God about how he's done this "giving special powers" thing for others before, or how making ordinary people "biblical" has worked for him in the past. This way, Shadyac creates a film where an unlikely guy (played by a bankable actor) earns the good graces of the audience easily and believably.
COMMANDMENT 2: Thou Shalt Not Fill a Movie with Clichés – Maybe it works for the masses, but for my money, a good film has to have at least a few elements that set it apart from every other movie in its genre. In Evan Almighty , we are treated to a terribly rote mixture of plot devices you've seen before. Evan is your typical father-who-works-too-much-and-can’t-find-time-to-visit-with-the-family. His wife is the typical lonely-wife-who-is-correct-but-gets-ignored-by-her-husband. The kids are desperate-for-some-quality-time-with-their-father-that-will-solve-all-their-problems. Hell, even when the one interesting thing DOES happen — God tasking Evan with the building of an ark — it is still used as an oh-so-clichéd device to make him connect with his family. When the credits roll, the good guys have won, the bad guys have lost, and we have learned…that family is important. By that point, I could not have cared less if the whole damn town flooded, killing every person in the city.
COMMANDMENT 3: Thou Shalt Stick to One Plot at a Time – Evan Almighty just could not, at any point, decide what story it wanted to tell. At first, it follows Evan as he fights against John Goodman. It then shifts into the Evan-as-Noah storyline, complete with white hair, long beard and robe. (Where did THIS come from? Jim Carrey's Bruce character remained an average Joe throughout the original; a kid in a candy store playing with the power of GOD…why does Evan have to go method to play Noah? This little choice reminded me far too much of Tim Allen's The Santa Clause, NOT a good way to get me into a film's good graces.) Then, all at once, we switch back to Evan's job (didn't they notice that he was gone for all that time?) where the two plots attempt to converge, but by then, it was clear that the filmmakers just didn't know where they wanted it to go, or how they were going to make it all work.
COMMANDMENT 4: Thou Shalt Not Preach in a Family Comedy – Even for a movie featuring God as a main character, Evan Almighty gets way too religious. While Bruce Almighty did have as its underlying theme the notion of miracles and everything happening for a reason, it was still at its heart a fun and largely secular film. Evan Almighty, by contrast, is a flat-out Bible story, essentially echoing Noah's tale from Genesis. Toward the end, Evan confronts Congressman Long, and tells him that he needs to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, giving the film a very somber tone. I felt like religion was getting crammed down my throat. This is NOT appropriate for a family comedy.
COMMANDMENT 5: Thou Shalt Make Comedies Actually Funny – Given its bearably amusing predecessor, I naturally assumed that the sequel would offer at least a few laughs. Unfortunately, there is very little humor in this film. A lot of the best gags were given away in the trailers, and even that humor is very juvenile in nature. Wanda Sykes has the funniest scenes in the movie, but this in itself is a shame because Steve Carell is typically a great comedic actor. However, as we learn in Evan Almighty, physical comedy is definitely not his strong suit ( like, for example, Jim Carrey in the original). Carell spends a lot of time trying to make funny faces and shout to make things funny but for me, it was just annoying. Bathroom humor and slapstick is fine for a kiddie movie, but I just expect more from a MAJOR HOLLYWOOD SEQUEL.
While I could go on and on, I will merely sum up by saying that Evan Almighty is nothing more than a religious Bible movie geared toward adolescents (my screening was shown to an audience of 8-14 year-olds; I tagged along as one of my brother's chaperons.) I consider this movie one of the worst of 2007, for everything detailed above, but also because, at the end of the day, it simply ruins, and ultimately sullies, everything that made the original even remotely tolerable.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.