It's one of the most blatantly simple movies I've ever seen: Jim Carrey becomes God. End of story.
To say Bruce Almighty would have been a mighty bore without Carrey is a supreme understatement. Carrey ad-libs his way through this film, first as Bruce Nolan, a down-on-his-luck TV newscaster who's passed over for anchorman and figures God has it in for him, and then as the Supreme Being himself, taking over for a vacationing God (Morgan Freeman) who's fed up with Bruce's insults.
And that, dear readers, is it. Need I mention there's a sappy love story between Bruce and his put-upon girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston; of course she's a kindergarten teacher)? Need I write about all the problems Bruce gets into by first ignoring prayers and then suddenly granting them all? And of course there's the trouble the Godlike Bruce gets into by abusing his powers -- blowing up skirts, making his dog pee in the toilet, and crashing meteors into the ground for show.
Oh, you've seen all that in the onslaught of TV commercials? Sorry. Not my fault.
While much of Bruce Almighty has been savagely ruined by its promotion -- I can't believe people still laughed at the "seven fingers" gag -- there's so much of this that is still ball-cracking hilarious that I can't help but recommend it.
Carrey's sense of comic timing is dead-on here, as he goofs his way through miracles and moping, always entertaining us when he's the only one on camera. And then there's a bit with Steven Carell (a The Daily Show correspondent) who, playing a rival newsman, is possessed by Bruce's powers and is forced -- for two excruciating minutes -- to babble senselessly on camera. I can't explain it, and in retrospect it is completely idiotic, but these 120 seconds of footage had me doubled over with laughter so severely I literally had to wipe my face with my sleeve, the tears were so bad. It was so funny I seriously thought I was going to fall out of my chair.
Too bad then that Bruce Almighty -- thanks to three writers and six producers -- ends up being the kind of lame story we expect from daytime TV and mass-produced movies. Aniston isn't cut out for this kind of broad comedy; she proved her comic worth in The Good Girl, but she takes a step back here, delivering awkward lines and playing the straight character with little success. As well, the film utterly peters out by getting sappy and melodramatic, as Bruce tries to clean up the many messes he's made as God while trying to woo back a fed-up Grace. As Bruce gets philosophical on us, it loses its comic steam; seeing Jim Carrey mess with the concept of determinism vs. free will is downright painful.
Bruce Almighty recalls the superior Groundhog Day in many ways -- oddball powers, love affair, main character who comes to terms with his own egomania -- but Groundhog has sophistication while Bruce plays it for cheap laughs. There's nothing wrong with cheap laughs, but next time let's try to keep Jim Carrey firmly grounded there, instead of letting him get his head stuck in the clouds.
Go with God.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd May 2003
Box Office USA: $242.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $484.6M
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Production compaines: Pit Bull Productions, Spyglass Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Shady Acres Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 89 Rotten: 95
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Tom Shadyac
Starring: Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, Jennifer Aniston as Grace Connelly, Philip Baker Hall as Jack Baylor, Catherine Bell as Susan Ortega, Lisa Ann Walter as Debbie, Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, Nora Dunn as Ally Loman, Paul Satterfield as Dallas Coleman, Morgan Freeman as God, Eddie Jemison as Bobby
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