From Ace to the Almighty
For a filmmaker of faith, presenting a supernatural worldview in a movie can be a major obstacle to getting it made. Hollywood executives would often rather remove the supernatural from a story, demythologizing and disenchanting it (e.g. The Last Temptation of Christ, Troy, Tristan + Isolde), despite the fact that this method does not prove lucrative.
Even so, Hollywood sometimes takes a chance on the supernatural, especially when it's couched in a "politically correct" way—for example, in fantasy (Narnia, Lord of the Rings), horror (Emily Rose), or, as we will examine here, comedy. In such cases, Hollywood—and moviegoers—will allow for the existence of the supernatural, the mention of a deity, yea even for the appearance of God himself.
Tom Shadyac, a professing Catholic who reads Augustine and Merton, was the youngest joke writer ever for Bob Hope. He graduated UCLA film school in 1989 and then worked in television for a few years before making the leap to feature films. Shadyac also dabbles in standup comedy and guest stars on TV. He works frequently with Jim Carrey and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk.
When Christian interviewers asked him about depicting unmarried sex and characters who curse, Shadyac replied, "One of the challenges of the church is to accept humanity for all it is. And I as a filmmaker am not going to deny that. I think it's important to acknowledge that we are imperfect … The Bible is chock-full of some racy stuff—a lot of sexual impropriety, violence, all kind of things. But the point of the Bible is that it's not about a moment, it's about the entire journey. Because if the Bible hadn't ended where it ended, it'd be a downer of a book. But it ends with redemption … If you look at the Bible as a whole, it's redemptive and beautiful, and it's God's love story to mankind." (See the complete interview here.)
With this exegetical approach in mind, let's look at how Shadyac accepts humanity for all it is in his films, and how he finds redemption at the end of his journey.
Serving an Ace; Going a Bit Nutty
When beginning one's career in Hollywood, it is helpful to start out with a bang. Shadyac's first film did just that for both him and, in a much bigger way, its star, Jim Carrey, who for his first film role would play the goofiest detective since Inspector Clouseau.
A weird blend of Dr. Doolittle and film noir, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) is also the least spiritual arrow in Shadyac's quill. Rooted in Carrey's physical plasticity, the comedy also seems to have started a trend of gross-out movies—though, in retrospect, today Ace's bawdy humor seems almost childlike.
Two years later, Shadyac did a remake of Jerry Lewis' 1963 classic The Nutty Professor, changing the story to suit his star, Eddie Murphy. Shadyac made the professor morbidly obese, allowing him to satirize while feeding on America's eternal obsession with weight.
Getting More Spiritual
Shadyac's next film, Liar Liar (1997), edges more toward a supernatural worldview. Reuniting with Carrey, Shadyac cast him as an unscrupulous lawyer (= liar) whose son's birthday wish is that his father would stop lying for one day—and, somehow, the wish is granted.
Fletcher Reede speaks the absolute truth for the next 24 hours, putting his job and life in jeopardy, yet ironically also saving him, setting him free, by revealing the truth to himself. It is that "somehow" that allows for the hint of a divine entity behind the spiritual truth serum that Reede has been administered. Perhaps God is unmentioned, but his presence is in every frame.