There’s a website called The Four Word Film Review, where they do exactly what it says on the tin — review a movie in 4 words. If I was doing that for Evan Almighty, those 4 words would be something like It’s All So Wet, or Evan Almighty: Damp Squib, or even It’s Just Noah Good. And if I was summing up the film in one word, that word would be: “Meh”.
It’s certainly not the worst comedy of the year so far (hello, Norbit), but it is completely pointless. It’s a spin-off from Bruce Almighty. Remember that? Yes, a brilliant concept — to give someone the limitless power of God for a week. And what did they do with it? Um … they gave Jennifer Aniston bigger boobs. Clever. And how do they follow that up? With a film that is duller and almost devoid of laughs. They’ve taken a secondary character from the first film — newsreader Evan Baxter (Carrell) – and given him a family, a new job (junior congressman) and moved him to a new town. Just as he’s getting settled in to new home and new office, along comes God (Freeman), who asks him to build an ark. Eventually he does, after much mystical prodding and poking. And his family, neighbours and workmates all think he’s nuts. Cue laughs. Not. Although to be fair, there’s one good joke in the film — Evan’s wife is named Joan. Get it? Joan of ark! Well, I thought it was funny.
So along with being bland and humourless, Evan Almighty is also a criminal waste of a talented cast. Carrell has been doing some great work — 40-Year-Old Virgin, TV’s American version of The Office — and is a funny, likable if somewhat goofy guy (I’ve got high hopes for next year’s big-screen version of Get Smart). Morgan Freeman has long been seen as one of the great elder statesmen in Hollywood. (As an aside, I love the fact that they made God black — that’s got to piss off America’s religious right almost as much as Kevin Smith did when he made God a woman in Dogma). Lauren Graham has an impressive pedigree, with fine work in TV’s Gilmore Girls and the black comedy Bad Santa; ditto John Goodman and Wanda Sykes. It’s clear that for them at least, Evan Almighty is one that they’ve done just for the money. Throw in some very dodgy CGI and lots of schmaltzy moralising about the importance of family and you’ve got one big load of — yes, you’ve guessed it — meh. It’s not quite an almighty stinker, but it sure ain’t an Evan-sent (groan) work of art, either.
SECOND OPINION | Neil Davey (NO STARS): Evan Almighty is better than Norbit. While that's faint-to-the-point-of-transparent praise, it's also only half of the story. For, while it's a better film than Norbit, it's also a worse film. Norbit starred Eddie Murphy, a name now sadly synonymous with rubbish comedies so expectations were always low. Evan Almighty has managed to take an excellent cast — Steve Carell, a man regularly vying for the ‘funniest man alive’ title with Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman and Lauren Graham — give them an amusing premise (God appears to 21st Century congressman, orders him to make ark) and still stop them being even remotely amusing. For this unforgiveable waste of talent, Evan Almighty is the worst film of 2007.
As mentioned briefly above, the plot sees Evan Baxter (Carell), the newsreader from Bruce Almighty, become a congressman (yes, we know, but just accept that jump in logic, it's much easier that way). He wants to "change the world" but faces a stiff test as God (Freeman, who clearly needs a new agent) has named him the new Noah, and ordered him to build an ark and assemble the animals etc. Huge comic potential ensues... all of it is squandered underneath chest-thumping God Bless America polemic and endless God Is Great schmaltz. The big ark-related joke / question is, of course, what do you do with all that crap? The answer here, apparently, is you package it up, call it Evan Almighty and hope that dumb people go and see it. A hideous experience.