Evan Almighty was more well-known for it’s assorted production troubles than the film itself. It had disaster written all over it. The film’s budget ballooned to roughly $200 million dollars and the script was, apparently, not all that great. Early trailers did nothing to interest filmgoers and, as seen before, sequels to Jim Carrey movies where Carrey himself is absent usually tend to crash and burn. Steve Carell, who had a small role in the original Bruce Almighty, took over the starring role for this flick. When Evan Almighty hit theatres this past summer, it managed to scrap up $100 million dollars before being shown the door. But, after all that hoop-la, what about the final product?
Junior congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), whose wish is to “change the world,” is heard by none other than God (Morgan Freeman). When God appears with the perplexing request to build an ark, Evan is sure he is losing it, along with his family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and the news media. But soon mysterious deliveries of wood and tools are being dropped on his doorstep, animals of every shape and size are flocking to him two by two, and Evan’s predicament starts to mount, as well as the laughs. Co-starring Lauren Graham (“The Gilmore Girls”), John Goodman (Cars), Wanda Sykes (Monster-in-Law), Jonah Hill (Knocked Up) and Molly Shannon (Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby).
When all the press hit, it seemed destined this movie would be a stinker and, I will admit, it’s not a great movie. But, it’s also not a bad movie. Infact, I’d have to say it’s a pretty good family movie. It’s a family movie that you know you can park your kids infront of and you really don’t have to worry about anything offensive or overly damaging coming onscreen to scare the kids. There are some laughs and Carell, seemingly confident in the role, has a nice onscreen presence.
Fans of the original Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, will likely be let down by the film because it’s pretty different from the original. Instead of God giving his powers to an everyday man, here he gives an everyday man a mission – build an ark. And that right there doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it? It really doesn’t but I think it was handled the best it could be in this type of film. There’s repetitive jokes to be sure (like how many times can Baxter crack himself with a hammer or fall down, etc.), but there are so me genuinely funny moments, most of which from the supporting cast or surprise cameos. Just comparing the trailers for the two films you can tell how different these two films are going to be. Plus, Universal opted for a simple PG-rating for this film, forgoing the PG-13 in an attempt to also market Evan Almighty as a family-friendly film which, to an extent, worked for them.
As much as the tame, family-friendly tone works for the film, there are one of two things that are hard to swallow. As much as you have to suspend belief for this type of film, there is one thing that really bugged me, Baxter’s wife, Joan. For some reason, she has a hard-time believing Baxter’s religious experiences, despite all the ridiculously over-powering evidence. The ark, the animals, the beard – all of it. It actually gets to the point where, despite overwhelming evidence that is so mind-blowingly staggering, she packs ups and leaves (don’t worry, kids, she comes back about five minutes later). Thankfully, the charm of the film itself does make it easy to push that bit of nonsense aside. If you’re going to accept what this movie offers, you have to roll with all of it, even the nonsensical stuff.
Like I said, the movie does have a surprising amount of charm to draw you in. Maybe it’s simply Morgan Freeman’s laid-back approach to The Big Guy, or Carell’s honest approach to Evan Baxter, but there is a light-hearted charm that does help the movie. The supporting cast is also surprisingly strong for the film. In particular, keep an eye on Jonah Hill, playing one of Baxter’s assistants. His role, while small, leaves a huge impact on the film. His comments, most of which contain a heaping of innuendo, are priceless. The scene where he’s introduced, and admits his appreciation of Carell’s Baxter, is absolutely priceless. Every time Hill comes on screen, he immediately adds a flare to it, an edginess that really gives the film a bit of that much-needed spark. Cameos by Ed Helms and Jon Stewart also really give the movie a bit of a pop, too.
However, I will say that you can see where the reported $200 million dollar budget went. Whether it’s the partially created arc, the real or CGI animals, or the extensive CGI work done, you can tell that this movie had a very high price-tag on it. It’s pretty unbelievable, actually. Hard to imagine Steve Carell would headline a $200 million dollar movie, one that was pre-determined to crash before even hitting theater screens. If you’re interested, reports on how the film’s budget flew upwards to $200 million, more than double the original budget, can be found online. But don’t let the budget controversy cloud your judgment. The film itself is a nice family-friendly movie, yes, but doesn’t really add bring itself to repeat viewings. It’s a cute movie, yes, and the kids will love the animals and some of the juvenile humor, but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t have the same edgy pull as the original Bruce Almighty, but it does have a charm to it.
The Evan Almighty DVD is available in both standard Amaray casing and environmentally-safe packaging. The environmentally safe packaging is essentially a cardboard thinpack which opens up to reveal the DVD hidden partially hidden in a sleeve, much like the DVD packaging for Paramount’s An Inconvenient Truth. The inside of the cardboard DD casing comes with assorted facts on how the DVD case itself and the film’s production attempted to be as eco-friendly as possible.
Sadly, as innovative as the packaging is, the DVD themselves are pretty standard. We get roughly 12 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes and a gaggle of featurettes. The featurettes cover production details like building the ark for the movie, the make-up process that turned Steve Carell into Noah, how they looked after the animals, and the eco-friendly efforts taken during the movie’s production. Outside of that, we get some Carell improve and an interactive game for the kids. Pretty standard stuff, really.
Overall, I’d have to recommend Evan Almighty for a Rental. It’s definitely a family-friendly movie that will really engage the children, especially with the juvenile humor and piles upon piles of animals. However, it lacks the edge of the original Bruce Almighty, but I don’t think this film was even aiming for that. Regardless, Carell manages to pull his weight in the movie and manages to kick up a couple laughs, mostly from the more subtle humor than the outright slapstick, juvenile stuff. It’s a mediocre movie, but a good mediocre movie that has an inexplicable charm to it. Add on the family-friendly message of togetherness, faith, and trying to be eco-friendly, it might make for a good movie night with the family.