In the 2003 comedy Bruce Almighty, Bruce (Jim Carrey) was a self-centered TV reporter frustrated with God (Morgan Freeman) over perceived mismanagement. God gave Bruce a chance to prove he could do better by temporarily granting him Almighty power; hilarity and some pretty decent theistic theology ensued. That film did not please everyone—it was too spiritual (Christian, really) for some mainstream viewers and too bawdy for some Christian viewers—but it still managed to entertain its way to considerable box office success.
Evan Almighty is Bruce Almighty's sort-of sequel. Director Tom Shadyac and screenplay writer Steve Oedekerk are back, as is Freeman. But Jim Carrey's Bruce is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell)—Bruce's scene-stealing news anchor rival from the first film—is the focus of God's (and the audience's) attention. When the film opens, Evan has just been elected congressman and is leaving the TV business and Buffalo behind to move his family to a new life in Virginia. He has a great wife, Joan (Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham), three handsome adolescent boys, a fabulous house (complete with kitchen cabinets harvested from the rainforest) and a Hummer in the driveway. Everything is going splendidly until God shows up and asks Evan to build an ark.
Evan, understandably, is reluctant to appear insane his first week on Capitol Hill, so he resists God's overtures. God, however, is rather persistent. The number 614 (as in Genesis 6:14) shows up everywhere. Pairs of animals begin following Evan to congressional meetings. The Go-4 Wood (pronounced Gopher Wood) Company keeps dropping off lumber at his front door. And despite his freakish attention to personal hygiene, Evan's hair and beard begin growing at alarming rates (like Tim Allen in The Santa Clause, only much, much worse). Evan's home and professional lives become very complicated. But God assures Evan, "Whatever I do, I do because I love you." Evan spends the rest of the movie finding out just what God means. And building an ark, of course.
Carell (The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) is terrific as Evan. A less elastic but more Everyman presence than Carrey, he handles the physical comedy adeptly and gives the emotional scenes more poignancy than the script sometimes deserves. Freeman is once again the perfect choice as God, handling the Role of all Roles with understated grace. Lauren Graham is warm and likeable and does what she can with the slightly written part of Evan's wife Joan (yes, that would be Joan of Ark). And the film benefits greatly from the larger than life presence of screen vets like John Goodman (as a corrupt and powerful politician) and the hilarious Wanda Sykes (as one of Evan's incredulous aides).
Some reports have Evan Almighty pegged as the most expensive comedy ever produced (rumored at more than $200 million), and the special effects—while more Doctor Doolittle than King Kong—are generally impressive. The animal stuff is all great, and the building of the ark itself is pretty cool. However, the climactic scenes (not to give too much away, but they involve water) are uneven and a touch confusing.