Movie Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
  • Rated: PG for mild rude humor and some peril
  • Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon, Ed Helms
  • Writers: Steve Oedekerk and Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow
  • Director: Tom Shadyac
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures


Two by two in part 2

By Brian Thomas     June 22, 2007

Steve Carell in EVAN ALMIGHTY (2007).
© Universal Pictures'
In Bruce Almighty (2003) – you may remember – God (Morgan Freeman) granted unlimited power (within limits) to mortal TV weatherman Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) to teach him to take responsibility for his life and stop complaining so much. In Evan Almighty, God comes to Nolan’s former rival Evan Baxter (Steve Carell, who along with Freeman and director Tom Shadyac are the lone repeaters in the sequel), who has just been elected a Congressman, and tells him He wants him to build an ark.

You probably got all that, and much more, from the movie’s trailer, which has been seen just about everywhere leading up to the film’s release. But though the ad gives away a bit more than it should, it’s still confusing. Isn’t Baxter kind of an asshole – why should we care about him? And if God plans to flood the Earth again, doesn’t that contradict what I was told in Catechism? Didn’t God promise never to bring the Great Flood again? And if Baxter is meant to become a modern day Noah, why is it necessary for him to build his ark using ancient tools and grow a long white beard? At least in The Santa Clause there was a rationale for Tim Allen to get fat and grow a beard, so that he would look the part of Santa Claus and insure continuity. It seems as if God means for Baxter to keep growing hair and wear old robes just to get some cheap laughs.

Well, precisely. Freeman (and Shadyac) play God as a friendly guy with a wicked sense of humor who enjoys putting Baxter through changes by screwing with him. He could have found a more subtle way of doing His business than to get some schmuck to construct a titanic vessel in the back yard of his new McMansion, but that wouldn’t have been as funny. This is a comedy after all, and God knows that forcing a guy to build an ark is funny, but forcing him to wear a silly costume while doing so is really funny.

Use of the word “funny” brings us to star Steve Carell, who is presently on a huge roll. He went from Daily Show correspondent to starring in what’s being billed as “the most expensive comedy in history” rather quickly, and Almighty contains a few nods to his sudden stardom. As Baxter begins his first day in Congress, there’s much talk about how much nicer his new office is than his old Office, and as God begins to torment the naïve politician he makes a movie marquee tout The 40 Year Old Virgin Mary. Carell has to battle a lot more than his own résumé here, as he gets upstaged at every turn. He has to act alongside Lauren Graham, who is saddled with the rather thankless wife role, but still does a lot of subtly wonderful things with her eyes. Then there’s Freeman, hamming it up in his own classy way as much as John Goodman does as the blandly sinister senior Representative, plotting to have Baxter help him pass an obviously crooked land use bill. And giving Baxter Wanda Sykes as a sidekick is just plain mean. She effortlessly steals every scene, getting the audience to wait for her zingers. John Michael Higgins (A Mighty Wind) and SNL’s Molly Shannon are also on hand to swipe laughs.

But Carell also has to work alongside hundreds of animals, both real and computer generated as part of the movie’s big budget special effects, which culminate in a spectacular f/x-filled climax. It’s no wonder that Carell comes off as a bit of a disappointment here. The man is insanely funny if you just point a camera at him, but if he gets a laugh when he’s covered in birds or when there’s a capering baboon in the frame, then it’s not really him being funny, is it?

Special effects are not inherently unfunny. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Bowers and other comedy pioneers proved as much, making us laugh at them because their characters were put in outrageous situations like the storm Keaton braves in Steamboat Bill Jr.. The spectacle created for Evan Almighty has the proper overall spirit of surrealism. Telling you more would give too much away, but suffice to say that the build-up pays off in unexpected ways.

Evan Almighty is a bit too preachy, a bit too proud of its almighty f/x and a bit too reliant on bird poop gags to be a really first class comedy. But it’s an undeniable crowd-pleaser that keeps you entertained from start to finish – and even a little bit after the finish via behind-the-scenes dance clips playing under the end credits.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Thomas, author of the massive book VideoHound’s Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks, available now!


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laforcer69@yahoo.com_home 6/22/2007 2:03:20 AM
It bums me out they showed the flood and the passengers on the Ark in the latest previews...I think they gave away a little to much in hopes of getting people to go see this...I was sold already on the comedy concept of this and feel a little cheated with the revealing of the flood and everything coming after and during it...
gamera23 6/22/2007 8:31:03 AM
Biggest Disappointment: When Evan asks God why he needs to build the ark, Freeman doesn't reply, "I gots to make water, Miss Daisy!" _BT
monkeypie 6/22/2007 10:30:46 AM
really. Really?!?!? A "B"?!? I saw this movie about a month ago at one of those free previews, and let's just say that I payed to much to see it. First off, you need to warn the readers that this movie is nothing like the first movie, ie: it's not an edgy comedy. As a matter of fact, this comedy's target is not even adults, it's a TOTAL family flick. The type of family, that is, that goes to church every Sunday morning, goes to ihop, Denny's, etc.. afterward for breakfast and then like to do a nice, wholesome activity together. While this movie may beat playing scrabble with your folks and three brothers and sisters, it's really not for the mature moviegoer and certainly not date worthy. What's worse, the previews/commercials show you the whole movie and the whole underlining plot of the movie could have been solved in 5 seconds had Morgan Freeman decided to smite a particular character with lightning rather than have Evan build an ark in character. I really enjoy Steve Correll's work. To me, he's the second coming of Phil Hartman, but this isn't a Steve Corell movie. It's more of a Steve Holt movie. Maniacs, save your movie money for something else, pass on this movie. For someone who payed to much to see a free movie, I give this move a straight up "D". STEVE HOLT!
Boombatty 6/22/2007 11:52:36 AM
SURPRISE! 3 movie reviews today, three "B" grades! Why do they even bother here at Cinescape? And yes, I am posting this comment in all 3 "B" movie reviews. Cinescape, you suck. Steve Holt, I do not believe they have any other grade here but "B".
vaporman 6/22/2007 12:06:39 PM
I bet this movie does well, despite the complaints that it isn't "mature" enough. I'll watch it, but probably on DVD.
gamera23 6/22/2007 2:18:29 PM
If Hollywood releases three grade B movies in one day, we at MANIA will give them three B grades. Are we to hand out Ds and As randomly, just to break things up? If we see three A movies, then you'll see three A grades. Will you complain then? Let's review: Mania does not make the movies. We just report on them and review them. And like it or not, most movies (or anything else, except rap music) that is released are more likely to be grade B than any other grade. And to monkeypie, if I were reviewing this as an edgy, hip comedy, I would indeed give it a D. But it's not that, and it was judged according to what it IS. _BT
Boombatty 6/22/2007 3:04:10 PM
"If we see three A movies, then you'll see three A grades. Will you complain then? " Yup. Mostly because when you guys give a movie an "A" I think you are whacked. Most of your reviews aren't bad but the reviewers seem to fall all over the place when it comes to grading. I really wish you guys would give up on letter grades altogether here. I have been screwed in the past by DVD reviews that tell me how great the movie is and how it is an "A" only to buy or rent the damn thing and curse out Cinescape for making lose my money and two hours I can never get back. So yeah, I will most likely complain but you can call it a "review" if you'd like. By the way, shouldn't most reviews garner a "C" by your logic? I have seen many of your reviews sir and by and large I can't figure out how average hacky material garners a "B". "C" is average, adjust your ratings. Let's review: You are a critic. That is your job. Can you really be pissed when your reviews get reviewed?
ewilliams 6/22/2007 3:56:59 PM
Well the problem with all of these reviews is this... B is given out too much. Plain and simple. You can't say every film is a "B" because then there is no point of reference. In so many ways reviewing/grading is relative. If you've only seen one film, say Star Wars, then you could give that an A or even a B, if you like. But when you see a number of films, there has to be some relative ranking based on that. If you cannot be giving EVERY film a B. That makes no sense. it comes off as just being a fence rider. i've seen all these reviews and relatively speaking too many are B's. There should be more range based on how they rank among each other and history. This is not thumbs up or thumbs down. There is an entire scale to work with and i rarely ever see the rest of the grades used which would only make sense. no one should randomly hand out anything but an effort should be made to grade films accordingly based on their ranking with other movies, dvds or whatever. one thing i'd like to add. Rotten Tomatoes has this film ranked as a stinker at 20%. i would have hoped the good folks at Mania would if anything be even tougher on film's like this. everyone is giving it an F pretty much and you give it a B? Come on. films are treated way too lightly here. it's like that guy who is have a GREAT day everyday. after about the first week or month of hearing that everyday you gotta start thinking, is this person normal or right in the head?
jppintar326 6/22/2007 6:53:11 PM
It will be interesting to see how this movie does. It has a rumored $175 million budget. I personally will skip this movie because I don't think it will be particularly funny. This could be the biggest flop of the year. That has been the problem this summer so far is that there hasn't been a big flop. There has to be one embarassing flop in the summer, whether it be Battlefield Earth, Hudson Hawk, or Gigli, to make the summer complete.
Boombatty 6/23/2007 2:36:06 PM
ewilliams, bravo, I couldn't have said it better.


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