review by KJ
23 May 2003
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Philip Baker Hall
Lisa Ann Walter
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.