Bruce Almighty
review by KJ Doughton, 23 May 2003

There’s absolutely nothing surprising, daring, or divine about Bruce Almighty, the latest greenback-stuffed freight car on Jim Carrey’s high-concept gravy train.  No doubt disappointed by the low-wattage returns from Carrey’s last two dramatic experiments, Man on the Moon and The Majestic, the putty-faced comedian has returned to his reliable roots.  Director Tom Shadyac, who hit box-office paydirt after filming Carrey in 1994’s Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, knows how to fish from a reliable honey hole. Bruce Almighty takes the flatulence-filled Ventura blueprint, slathers on the sentimental frosting of Liar Liar, (also directed by Shadyac) and churns out this cardboard, fast-food vat of lowest common-denominator fluff.

Shadyac, a commercial hitmaker in the "play it safe" vein of Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire), will be laughing all the way to the bank, even if his audience doesn’t do the same while enduring this half-baked rehash of It’s a Wonderful Life. Playing a selfish television reporter named Jim Nolan, Carrey’s Donny Osmond grins and gregarious, guffaw-inducing manner lend themselves perfectly to his coverage of "human interest" stories. While the highly coveted, serious newscasts are thrown to more straight-faced anchormen, Nolan must enlighten his Buffalo, New York viewers with benign tales of a bakery boasting the town’s "largest cookies."

Meanwhile, his perfectly sensible, goodhearted girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) endures Nolan’s restless ambition to take on the larger stories, even as he neglects her advice to enjoy life’s simpler pleasures. A day care teacher who immerses herself in scrapbook assembly to relax, Grace comes across as a passive, Prozac-ingesting housecat, in jarring contrast to Carrey’s wild-eyed Tasmanian devil. 

Like so many other studio-spawned, assembly-line productions, Bruce Almighty has a plot that can be easily summarized in a quick corporate pitch. Self-absorbed man endures a bad week, and vents his frustrations to God, before the Creator (Morgan Freeman) offers this miserable wannabe yuppie a proposal.  "If my job is so easy," the Lord suggests, "why don’t you try it?" With that, Nolan is given divine powers while Freeman’s wise-eyed Man Upstairs takes a vacation.        

Before you can say "Heaven Help Us," Nolan is using this unlimited supply of supernatural energies to turn the tables on his streak of poor luck.  At the empowered pet-owner’s command, his incontinent pooch is soon straddling the toilet and urinating like a perfect gentleman.  Grace is treated to orgasmic bursts of libido-boosting lust as he prepares to bed the insatiable squeeze.  His main competitor at the news station spews unintelligible word salad during live broadcasts, sputtering and stammering like some moppet snorting helium at a birthday party. 

It would seem that life has taken a more positive turn, until Grace catches Nolan kissing a foxy anchorwoman who’s attracted to the co-worker’s sudden surges of confidence and good luck. When Grace announces that their relationship is over, Nolan is left with an unsettling predicament: God has made it clear that this apprentice’s almighty powers are conditional, and cannot change "free will." Try as he might, the heartbroken Bruce cannot force Grace to take him back. Meanwhile, Freeman’s holy entity makes the occasional appearance to chastise Nolan for only using these God-given forces for his own benefit.  Why not share the wealth a bit, the Lord suggests.

Predictably, Nolan becomes older and wiser through such celestial prompting. However, his stabs at decency are self-serving at best. Aside from a few half-hearted gestures towards the happiness of Grace and other immediate acquaintances, this shallow spaz doesn’t really appear to be flexing his philanthropic muscles very hard. Unable to find it within himself to reach beyond a small, personal sphere of influence, Carrey’s "hero" really doesn’t investigate the well being of those most in need. Attempting to answer the auditory prayers flooding his brain, Carrey merely plugs them into a computer, and answers "yes" with a few generalized strokes of the keyboard. 

Carrey is on autopilot here, churning out booger jokes and dodging streams of dog piddle. Meanwhile, his many funny faces and caffeinated gestures are backed by an uppity orchestration that screams out "whimsical," "wacky," and "zany" with each grimace-inducing attack of the string section.

Obviously, the producers of Bruce Almighty are in this one for the fast buck, but you would think that in their haste to exploit serious themes like prayer and supernatural visitation, they might reach a little higher.  In striving for heavenly enlightenment, Bruce Almighty merely buries its head in the clouds.

Directed by:
Tom Shadyac

Jim Carrey
Morgan Freeman
Jennifer Aniston
Philip Baker Hall
Catherine Bell
Lisa Ann Walter
Steve Carrell
Nora Dunn

Written by:
Michael O’Keefe
Steve Oederkerk
Steve Koren

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.






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