Bruce Almighty
Grade: C-
Year: 2003
Director: Tom Shadyac
Writer: Steve Koren
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a lively news reporter who works for a local station in Buffalo, New York. His dream is to become an anchor and the replacement for the guy who is retiring, but Bruce is stuck doing the “human interest stories,” such as reporting from the scene of a Mom & Pop bakery that is going for the largest chocolate chip cookie world record, and reporting on the Maid of the Mist, the Niagara Falls tour boat, as it celebrates its hundred-and-something year anniversary.

When he learns on live TV that he lost the anchor position to a fellow reporter played by Steven Carell, he loses control from the Maid of the Mist and shouts out the f-word for all to hear. In real life, this would permanently kill anybody’s chance of ever returning to a news career. But in Hollywood, profanities are said because they are supposed to make us laugh, and because people forget about the incident when the scene ends.

Now fired from the station completely, Bruce begins screaming at God for his misfortunes. Every time something doesn't go his way, God gets a fistful. When Bruce eventually gets on his knees and pleads for God's help, his beeper suddenly goes off. Now the skeptic wouldn't believe God has actually answered his prayer, but he would at least want to know who's paging him. Bruce looks at the number which he doesn't recognize, and refuses to answer the call. The pager continues to go off as the days go by, so Bruce finally throws it out the window. What? That could have been an important page. Maybe it's not God, but possibly an employer willing to give jobless Bruce employment. The last thing you can afford to do after losing your job is to lose your pager.

Bruce eventually stumbles across an abandoned warehouse where he eventually stumbles across The One, God himself (Morgan Freeman). Of course Bruce doesn't buy it, so we have to sit through several trials so God can prove he is who he says he is. Mysteriously knowing everything, and seven fingers on the right hand later, Bruce comes to terms and accepts that he is face to face with the Creator, himself.

In order to teach Bruce a valuable lesson, God gives him all of his powers. But as it has been said in some unknown comic-book, "with great power comes great responsibility." But Bruce is too busy enjoying the luxuries of having God's abilities. He brings the moon closer to Earth in order to make a more romantic evening with his girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston). We see the moon intensify in size, which must mean Bruce brought the moon hundreds of miles closer to Earth, which consequently creates massive tidal waves off the coast of Japan (and only Japan). Bruce doesn't instantly realize the consequences that others suffer because of his shenanigans, so we must wait for total anarchy to rule the city of Buffalo before Bruce learns anything valuable. It will be awhile.

Part of Bruce’s job as the new God is to answer prayers which come in the form of e-mail. I thought the famous AOL jingle “You’ve got mail” joke tired long ago, but I guess I was wrong after this film’s version: “You’ve got prayers” returned no laughs. While answering prayers, Bruce gets flustered and decides to grant them all with one click. As a result, everyone who played the last lottery, wins(the high number of winners result in a $17 pay-out which starts a riot).

Now I know it’s pointless to question the logic of this particular movie, but I couldn’t resist but to ask a few questions. How is it possible for everyone to win the lottery? Everyone would have had to play the exact same numbers, and Bruce would have had to magically change the numbers everyone played and erased their memory to adjust for the new numbers. But then he’d be breaking the rule I didn’t mention, which says God can’t mess with people’s free-will. This must explain why God can’t stop terrorists from killing thousands of people, yet he can easily force Jennifer Aniston’s character to have an orgasm.

I found myself in a place I've rarely been before at the screening of "Bruce Almighty." I was watching a comedy starring Jim Carrey that wasn't really funny. Instead, the film attempts to be serious. This is not the film that should be making us question our own existence, but because it does, it skips on the comedy. Even Steven Carell, the hilarious news reporter from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” is dull and uninteresting. His best moment comes when Bruce gets his revenge for losing out on the anchor job. While delivering a report, Carell loses his verbal coordination and begins mumbling like a toddler for several minutes. Of course the director of the news program doesn’t cut him off, so we must endure this scene that seems to go on forever.

I eventually succumbed to knowing I would not leave the theater having just seen a typical Jim Carrey comedy. The movie is one giant lesson that you would learn from a TV-sitcom professor (whose job is to teach academics but instead teaches life), where we witness what happens when one only cares about himself, and how it affects other people. So when Bruce finally decides to do things like sit next to the homeless man and help the guy with his stalled car, I lost all hope for redemption.

"Bruce Almighty" also goes over the typical romance scenarios of comedy, like don't let your co-anchor start making out with you immediately after inviting your girlfriend via phone to come to the party, because she might just show up in the bedroom when you're lip locking with the obligatory lusty antagonist.

Will Bruce and Grace work out their relationship problems? Will Bruce become a better man and care for others? That’s for you to find out in the conclusion. And to think I thought this was all taken care of in the much better Carrey film, “Liar Liar.” I did somewhat appreciate the serious approach, but it consequently killed the humor we all expect in Jim Carrey comedies. I did like Aniston. Her character is a believable girlfriend, and more than just a crutch for Carrey’s antics. She shows that she belongs in movies as a legitimate actress with a career ahead of her after “Friends.” But she needs better projects.

Then there’s the common staple of modern comedies, which is the need for extreme toilet humor, and it seems to be getting more explicit every year. In “Bruce Almighty,” we get the privilege of watching a dog urinate on more than one occasion. I complained of the dog in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” for always urinating on the card table as if it were a learned trick. But we got the point anyway, so it wasn’t necessary to see. “Almighty” takes it a step further by giving us a nice full-frontal shot of a male dog urinating as Bruce desperately tries to get it outside before the carpet gets ruined. To the film’s credit, I couldn’t tell if the urination was real or CGI magic, but it looks real, and we get to see it many times.

The movie ultimately fizzles out after a horrible beginning, a somewhat decent middle, and then a lacking conclusion. I wondered at one point near the end if Bruce had lost or given up his powers that I was unaware of, because he goes a long time without using them. You’d think someone that could control the moon would be taking advantage of his new abilities every waking second.

That is a problem with Steve Oedekerk, Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe’s story. They seem to forget about important elements of the plot as the story progresses. Even Bruce’s kiss with a co-anchor gets pushed aside for awhile. Other events also take the back seat while what’s playing in the current scene is the only thing in focus.

Director Tom Shadyac reveals in an E! interview that he didn't allow Jim Carrey to have complete freedom while making the film, but instead allowed him to be creative with limitations. I think we’ve found our main problem. The restricted Jim Carrey combined with little material to work with is clearly the film's greatest downfall. When a comedy resorts to borrowing a scene from "Old School" to make you laugh, you know you've got a disappointment on your hands.

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