Prequel: “Bruce Almighty” (2003)
Genesis 6:14 begins with God’s command to Noah to “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood….” In 2007, God has returned in the form of Morgan Freeman to again issue this command, this time to Steve Carell, a.k.a. Evan Baxter. Verily I say unto you, this then is the plot of the $175-million dollar comedy epic, “Evan Almighty.”
Evan Baxter, a Buffalo news anchorman, has just been elected to Congress, so he packs up his family and moves them to suburban D.C. With the job comes a big new house and a Hummer. The Baxter family has it all. But Evan’s family misses their dad, who is now too busy with the trappings of politics to spend time with his family. His campaign slogan was “To Change the World,” but as his family prays for more time with their dad, Evan prays and asks God to help him keep his campaign promise.
The next day Evan is awoken by his General Electric alarm clock at 6:14. He proceeds to find a crate addressed to him on the doorstep with some ancient carpentry tools. Later, a load of wood is delivered to his house from “Go-4-Wood Supplies.” Not much later, God appears and directs Evan to begin building an ark.
Animals begin to follow Evan in pairs. He begins to grow a longer and longer beard, and finally he ends up wearing a long robe. Of course, none of this helps his political career. He eventually seals his doom by announcing at a Congressional meeting that God has instructed him to make an ark. Anytime someone says that, they must be a delusional crackpot, right?
What is God’s plan for Evan? What lessons will he learn through this adventure? They aren’t too surprising, but still quite nice, considering this is a Hollywood movie.
The movie is quite funny throughout, but not uproariously. It’s rather sweet and gentle most of the way. There is no swearing and no sex. There are a few animal jokes, but, for the most part, it is the most unobjectionable mainstream movie I have seen in years. The movie doesn’t make fun of God or the values. The theology is, for the most part, fine. It’s just a nice, cute, $200+ million dollar comedy.
In one particularly poignant exchange between God and Evan, God asks him if he thinks when you pray and ask God for patience, if God gives you patience, or puts you in a situation where you learn patience. If someone asks for courage, does God give them courage or put them in a situation where they can become courageous? Does God give you family togetherness, or does he put you in a situation where you pull together as a family? I thought these observations were right on the money, and probably ideas the general non-Christian viewing public has perhaps not even thought of before.
Steve Carell is the master of the uncomfortable moment, which makes him the perfect actor to play the modern day Noah. We get a sense for how the real Noah must have felt in his day, telling everyone it was going to flood, as he built a huge boat in his back yard. Carell’s character actually sheds some light on what this must have been like for Noah. Morgan Freeman plays God for comedy, at times, but respectfully and thoughtfully, as much as that can be done in a movie.
For me, there was really nothing objectionable in the movie. I found it to be fun and entertaining—and even insightful at times. Is it the funniest or most dramatic movie ever made? No. But it delivers, for what it is. It’s much better than I think many critics are giving it credit. Of course, we know the world of religious cynics like nothing more than panning anything that espouses values and religion. I think this is, however, a movie the whole family could enjoy. I guess time will tell if the movie can make back the money spent on its production and marketing, but I am willing to give it at least 40 days and 40 nights to try.