Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty

directed by Tom Shadyac

starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston

Universal Pictures

In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey has the first Christian-friendly comedic role of his good-taste-challenging career. Actually, the film has a non-denominational appeal — if one could overlook some minor sexual content and a Capuchin monkey crawling out of a man’s ass. However, it may offend those belonging to sects that solely embrace a Caucasian Creator.

This summer’s first comedy hit features Carrey playing himself, Jennifer Aniston as Jennifer Aniston, and Morgan Freeman as God. At first thought, one might surmise that the mortal-meets-God funny-formula has been utilized enough in movies past (most memorably, George Burns’ interpretation of the Supreme Being), and perhaps it has — but Bruce Almighty rises above its predecessors in the choke-on-your-popcorn, pee-your-pants hilarity department.

The story begins with cutesy-feature TV reporter Bruce Nolan (Carrey) vying for an open anchor position at his Buffalo station. We soon learn that having a cute-as-a-button schoolteacher girlfriend named Grace (Aniston) and interviewing nose-picking cookie bakers is not enough for the discontented reporter. After an on-camera meltdown (briefly evocative of a pivotal scene in Me, Myself and Irene), Nolan is fired. After a day that goes downhill from there, nice-guy Nolan begins to curse God, likening himself to an insect under a hot sun, with God holding a magnifying glass.

The Creator takes offense to this diatribe, and calls Nolan to His office, where He bestows the disbelieving malcontent with all of His powers. There’s just two catches: Nolan can’t reveal his new identity, and he can’t interfere with a mortal’s free will. Naturally, the journalist can’t swallow any of this (Carrey invoking his “What is happening to me?” bit from Liar, Liar), until he discovers that he can part a bowl of tomato soup like the Red Sea.

Cue Snap’s 1990 hit, “The Power.” In a scene from the commercial that all of you have been inundated with, Nolan takes a small cue from Carrey’s performance in The Mask, and goes on a frolic-spree with his newfound ability — the ability to do anything he wants. Enter (and exit) Capuchin monkey.

However, Nolan soon discovers that playing God is not all fun and games – and that, because every action has a consequence (for example, pulling the moon closer for Grace to admire causes a tidal wave), Freeman/God has been sticking to the New Testament, laissez-faire handbook. Nolan’s relationship with Grace disintegrates, and like so many cinematic heroes before him, Nolan finds that having superpowers or having everything you wish for come true doesn’t always erase your troubles.

Bruce Almighty is essentially a three-character reversal of It’s A Wonderful Life, with the film’s other actors relegated to being props for Carrey’s scene-chewing. Curvaceous Catherine Bell (Jag) is allowed a half-stab at playing an anchorwoman/temptress, and Steve Carell (Watching Ellie, “The Daily Show”) has a knee-slapping moment as Nolan’s news rival. And, out of the blue, faded sex-bomb Sally Kirkland briefly appears in a couple of scenes as a diner waitress.

Predictable? Yes, from minute one. But, like Adam Sandler’s trademarked offerings, you usually get what you pay for when seeing Jim Carrey in action – a good time. Carrey’s comedic genius and physical ability is once again on display, and the result (with Freeman’s sublime assistance and the Tom Shadyac’s subtly superb direction) is predictably outrageous. In a high-stakes box-office season that’s bound to have as many disappointments as spectacular pay-offs, there’s something to be said for sure-thing, predictable entertainment.

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