Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evan Almighty review

Evan Allmighty (2007) dir. by Tom Shadyac, starring Steve Carrell, Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, John Goodman

Evan Allmighty is kind of a half-sequel. It carries over half the title from the original 2003 film "Bruce Allmighty" and it has half of the main duo from the last film: Morgan Freeman as God. On a tangent, I think didn't realize how good a choice Morgan Freeman is as God when I saw Bruce Allmighty for this reason: Freeeman's known for his narrational work, and the narrator of a film often plays the role of God. So because the film's not really a sequel, it's kind of a cheap attempt to be perceived as a sequel by the moviegoing public, because sequels are such surefire bets in terms of box office draw. This probably is what irked critics more than anything else.

The other half of the God-Human Muse partenrship in this film is Steve Carrell as Evan Baxter, the obnoxious anchorman with very limited screentime in the last film. Carrell's Baxter is not really much at all what he was in the first film, perhaps because Steve Carrell himself has become such a likeable star persona in the last four years. I think with Steve Carrell we have the "TV Star=Movie Poision" problem. It's hard to get worked up about seeing Steve Carrell being funny in a movie when he does that every week on TV and the problem becomes exacerbated when you consider that the writing staff of The Office can make Steve Carrell funnier than Tom Shadyac as a screenwriter can. Still, the film has its humorous moments. Surprisingly, many of these come from Wanda Sykes, the brilliant female comic, who used to have her own show (she doesn't have one anymore, because, well, TV networks are just plain stupid). I was kind of thinking as I was watching this that perhaps Wanda Sykes should be the leading lady in a comedic movie or two.

I want to touch up on a couple things that this movie had going for it and one thing the movie didn't have going for it:

Bad things:
I don't think the film could ever decide if the film was about a congressman gone crazy or a father and husband trying to win his family back. I'm not sure if the film understands the gravity of being a congressman. This isn't the typical, "I can't play with you kids, because I've got a lot of work at the office" job. He's a FREAKING CONGRESSMAN. He's one of 435 people that create laws in this nation. It's a very, very big and important job. Evan's wife shouldn't be nagging him on "why did we leave Buffalo and move here. It wasn't beneficial to the kids." For god's sake, woman, he's IN CONGRESS.

Congressman's kids and wives usually bend around and have to play the political game. If Lauren Graham's character left Steve Carrell, she'd have to understand that that would be political suicide for him and for her causes. That's why the wives of congressman don't divorce their husbands in the middle of a scandal. She would also have been followed around everywhere with TV cameras, especially the night after he shows up to congress in a big beard.

The film also doesn't understand how office politics and congress aren't two different things. I've been to Capitol Hill three times in the last few years (I'm a native Washingtonian) and everyone gets a big office. This isn't Office Space or The Apartment. Evan Baxter shouldn't have to suck up to the guy who gives him a big office for survival.


Good things:
When we were kids, my sister once expressed an interesting thought when we were driving home from religious school: If the Messiah were to come down today, who would believe him? It was a kind of eureka moment she had and that kind of reminds me of the thematic content of this film. Yes, I did say thematic content. This is a Steve Carrell comedy but it does have a pedagogical aspect to it. It’s not a religious parable on the level of Passion of the Christ, but on a level that’s not too impressively complex, Evan Allmighty has a theme to it about the widely growing gulf between our religious convictions and the cynicism that has come with our modernization. It’s the same point that was thought up by my sister when she was maybe 12 and on that level, I think this is a good family movie for that reason: behind the comedy is a theme and a moral lesson that will appeal to children and perhaps even the children in adults.

The other good thing is the way everything works out in the end. I won't give a spoiler but I consider it one of the foremost examples of movie magic when a filmmaker can take disparate plot elements and storylines that he has been juggling around through the course of the movie and weave them all together in a clever way, so that everything makes sense, and while the family conflict subplot, the Congress subplot, and the ark subplot seemed like they all were on different planes of existence, Shadyac skillfully fits the pieces of the puzzle in a "ohhh, so that's how it works" moment that redeems the story.

3 comments:

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