Bruce Almighty Review
By Shawn McKenzie 05/23/2003
I wouldn’t say that Jim Carrey’s career is in a slump, but creatively, he has been in trouble. The last good movie I saw him in was the Farrelly Brothers comedy Me, Myself & Irene. Since then, he has not done it for me. He followed that movie with one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen him in, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Even though that movie went on to make $260 million domestically, I still hated it. He followed that with his third gratuitous Oscar attempt in The Majestic. Not only did he miss Oscar for the third time in a row (after The Truman Show and Man on the Moon), it was one of the biggest bombs of his career. He took a little time off, and now he is back with Bruce Almighty. It is good to see him in another goofy comedy, but this one had some plot holes that were hard to get over.
Bruce Nolan (Carrey) is not a happy man. He is a news reporter who is almost 40 years old. He is still stuck doing the fluff pieces for Eyewitness News in Buffalo, New York. What he really wants to do is be an anchor, like his idol Walter Cronkite. The chance suddenly arrives when he learns that the senior anchorman has decided to retire. He figures if he just sticks it out, his patience will win out, as it did for the co-anchorwoman Susan Ortega (Catherine Bell.) Bruce’s boss, Jack Keller (Philip Baker Hall) sends him on a live report at Niagara Falls. Bruce is excited because he has never done a live story. What he doesn’t know is that Jack assigned him the story in the hopes that his reaction to the news that rival reporter Evan Baxter (Steven Carell) has been given the anchor job will not be so bad. Jack miscalculated a little, because Bruce takes it very badly, and in front of his segment producer Ally Loman (Nora Dunn) and the viewing public, he has a nervous breakdown. He is immediately fired, and his day just gets worse after that. He is beaten up while defending a homeless man from some thugs, his car is badly damaged, and he steps in a huge puddle of water. He rants and raves towards God, saying that all his problems are because God is ignoring him, and that the big man could fix everything immediately if he only wanted to. Suddenly, Bruce starts being paged frequently to call a number. After repeatedly trying to ignore it, he finally calls the number, which leads him to go to an all white building called Omni Presents, Inc. He meets a janitor there who turns out to be God (Morgan Freeman.) God offers Bruce the opportunity to see if he can do any better at being God, since he had been ranting so much. God wants to go on vacation, so he gives Bruce all his powers to do with as he wishes. There are only two rules. He cannot tell anyone that he has these powers, and he is not allowed to control freewill. Bruce doesn’t believe this janitor/God at first, but after parting his tomato soup in front of a lonely waitress named Anita (Sally Kirkland) at a nearby cafe, he comes to accept his fate. At first, he uses the powers for purely selfish reasons. He manipulates the universe to have a hot and steamy romantic evening with his loving, supportive girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston), and he uses the powers to get his job back. Now he is the top reporter at the station, but he doesn’t see that his actions have many consequences. God points out that he has yet to answer any prayers. Out of pure laziness, he says yes to all the prayers, which ends up creating more problems. Soon his girlfriend leaves him and moves in with her sister Debbie (Lisa Ann Walter), and Bruce begins to wonder if he really has the stuff to take on God’s responsibilities, since everything seems to be worse than before.
I was prepared to love this flick. The trailer cracked me up, and after a little research, I discovered that Carrey has a good track record with this film’s director. Tom Shadyac had previously worked with Carrey on the film that made the actor’s career, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and then on my personal favorite Carrey film, Liar Liar. I left it just a little disappointed. It’s not because it wasn’t funny, because it is very funny, but because there was one thing about the story that really bothered me. Bruce rants about God not doing his job correctly, but when he is given the opportunity, he neither makes a determined effort to correct God’s mistakes nor does he feel much remorse over his half-hearted job at answering prayers. He is selfish pretty much throughout the entire film, and I would have liked to see him address some of these problems. While it was nice that he came to appreciate what he had, he ignored everything and everybody else.
Would I consider Bruce Almighty Carrey’s triumphant comeback? Well, if you were comparing it to his last two films, then the answer would be yes. If you were lining it up against his comedic career in general, then the answer would be no. The story problem took away from the humor overall, but it was still very funny. My personal favorite scene is one where Bruce is manipulating Evan’s ability to do his newscast (of course that may say more for Carell than Carrey.) It is one of Carrey’s better films, but not one of his better comedies. Does that make any sense? Maybe only God knows.
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