Production Company: Universal Pictures
Director: Tom Shadyak (Patch Adams, Liar, Liar)
Principals: Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell
Rating: PG-13 (An instance of rough language, minimal profanities, some crass humor and an implied sexual encounter)
By Lynne and Mardon DeMichele
(UMC.org) -- Don’t let the ads for this film turn you off. Plainly, those in charge of marketing Bruce Almighty were not involved in its creation. Aside from some juvenile humor which, after all, seems to appeal to Jim Carrey fans, Bruce Almighty is well worth seeing. Excellent performances from Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman (arguably the best
cinematic “God” to date) do justice to a well-written story full of warmth, thoughtfulness and a fair amount of grownup humor, too.
|God (Morgan Freeman) takes a vacation, turning over the power to a selfish, complaining news reporter (Jim Carrey). Photo by Ralph Nelson. © 2003 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.|
The premise is pleasantly preposterous. God takes a vacation, turning over the power to a selfish, complaining news reporter whose only worthwhile attribute is his ability to make people laugh. But, the whimsical basis of this piece allows us to see some basic, yet important truths. If Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey gets to see what the world would have been like if he’d never been born (It’s a Wonderful Life), why shouldn’t Jim Carrey’s Bruce Nolan have a shot at playing God? It is only make believe, after all.
After a horribly bad day causes Bruce (Carrey) to question God’s ability to run the universe, he finds himself chosen to sub for the Almighty. The broad humor of this film derives from Bruce’s trying to get a handle on his newfound power. Rather than going for world peace, Bruce turns his on-air rival into a babbling idiot and provides his live-in girlfriend with a pair of special physical enhancements.
Then he discovers consequences. Saying yes to all prayers, for instance, can result in chaos.
|After a horribly bad day causes Bruce (Carrey) to question God’s ability to run the universe, he finds himself chosen to sub for the Almighty. Photo by Ralph Nelson. © 2003 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.|
He also learns something important about relationships. In a moment of desperation, he asks God, "How do you make someone love you without affecting free will?" To which the Lord replies, "Welcome to my world, son." In the end, Bruce realizes he is not the best judge of what's best for his own life, and that having all his desires met does not lead to happiness. At one desperate point, he falls to his knees in the middle of a highway, appealing to God like a wayward child.
Many will find the comedy in the first half of the movie tasteless or juvenile. The merit is in the messages and in the performances of Carrey, Aniston, and Freeman. This is not a frivolous 90 minutes of watching Carrey’s manic mugging. This film will warm your heart, make you smile and even tear up a bit. The relationships and situations should stimulate many a worthwhile conversation, especially with Carrey fans.
Of course not everyone loves this movie. Bob Jones University, in a recent newsletter, dismissed it as "blasphemous." Universal’s 1988 film "The Last Temptation of Christ" which portrayed a very human Jesus elicited disapproving pickets from Christian groups across the nation. In an apparent effort to head off public pre-judgment of this new picture, the studio has hired Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm that promotes mainstream movies to the religious press. It’s too bad the trailers work against the PR effort.
|In the end, Bruce realizes he is not the best judge of what's best for his own life, and that having all his desires met does not lead to happiness. Photo by Ralph Nelson. © 2003 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.|
The film’s director, Tom Shadyac, calls himself a Bible believing Catholic. In an interview with Web magazine, Christian Spotlight, he said, “I think we Christians have to get off our judgmental high thrones. I understand why we're like that, but God is working in each one of us -- independently, individually -- and he allows people to go on their own imperfect journeys that he will make it perfect. I hope that the Christian community -- the very community that could embrace this movie -- will give it a chance as a whole, and not lose the forest for the trees.”
Mardon DeMichele has been a filmmaker, professor and on-air critic. Lynne DeMichele is a professional writer, editor and former director of communications for the Indiana Area United Methodist Church.