The amount of bad press surrounding Evan Almighty’s release didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. Spun off of a character that was in Bruce Almighty for a very short period of time, I didn’t see much promise coming from Evan Almighty, but, all the same, I love Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman, so wanting to see the film regardless was something I would have to give into.
Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) has just about everything going right in his life: going from news anchor to a junior congressman and moving his family to a bigger and better house, complete with a new car, Evan is all set for his new life in politics. That is until God shows up and tells him to build an ark, because a “flood is coming.” Not believing him, Evan tries his best to shirk this new responsibility and continue about his new life until he begins growing an unshaveable beard, uncuttable hair and being forced to wear a robe. Finally giving in, Evan starts building the ark with his family, which slowly begins to drive them apart.
While the premise of the film is a bit of an odd one to come off of Bruce Almighty with, especially since in that film Evan was a jerk, it’s not altogether that surprising; with 40 Year Old Virgin (a movie that is referenced in Evan Almighty, with a film called “The 40 Year Old Virgin Mary” on a movie theater playing list—a joke that is left on screen far too long, I might add) under his belt, Carell’s career shot off and I’m sure studios were clamoring to find films they had cast him in bit parts in to try to expand on past franchises.
Perhaps it’s because I didn’t expect much from the film that I was thoroughly entertained by it. Don’t get me wrong, the film was nothing special and it was completely 100% predictable, but it’s not like there isn’t something to enjoy here. Carell fits well in the leading man role and his supporting cast of Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins and Jonah Hill at the office and Lauren Graham as his wife at home round out the movie rather well. Hill was a surprise to me as I’d never seen him in the trailers; his role was small but his impact on the film was not unfelt—he added a tiny edge to the otherwise “safe” humor that the film presented. Many won’t feel or remember his presence much, but those who have seen him in Knocked Up or Superbad will know what to expect.
One big aspect of the film was the special effects, which caused its budget to balloon past that of a normal comedy. The effects and all the animals were remarkable to see on screen and to think they actually built a full sized ark is impressive to think about and while the end sequence with the ark going through Washington DC on a giant wave was strange to see in a comedy, it was still surprising what they could do in the special effects department on a comedy budget.
There were a few tired jokes in the film, mostly which came from Wanda Sykes, but the repeated hammer-to-thumb gags that Carell pulled off during one sequence became a bit much by the end of that scene. Once or twice it’s funny, five times it’s funny because it keeps going on but past that you just want it to end; not surprisingly there were a slew of other takes, all improv by Carell, featured in the extras portion of the DVD. Still, even with the predictable humor and sight gags, the film is genuinely funny and worth a spin in your DVD player.
One key thing to remember about this film is its rating: PG. This was not meant to be an overly edgy or racy comedy, it was meant to be a family one; the strong presence of religion in the film is also a big aspect of the film, especially in the one scene with God (Morgan Freeman) and Joan Baxter (Lauren Graham)—God’s mention of “bringing the family closer together”, a reference to what Joan said earlier in the film, was perfectly placed in the film. Again, as predictable as it all was, the film was just one to watch to make you feel good about life. It’s fantastical in ways, sure, but overall it’s worth your time to check out; I mean, a movie with Steve Carell, Jonah Hill, Ed Helms and a cameo by Jon Stewart? When is that not worth watching? Recommended.
Arriving on a single disc DVD in widescreen and fullscreen editions, Evan Almighty comes with a fair amount of extras that seem to be splintered all over the disc in no particular order. The DVD comes in a standard amaray case with no outer jacket, inside we get the DVD with the plain label that Universal is so well known for as well as an ad for Xerox products (were they even in the film?).
On the DVD front we get a solid technical presentation with the video being strong throughout with little to no compression throughout. Audio is a robust 5.1 track that makes use of the rear channels more than your typical comedy does and overall the two represent the film as best as it can. A 5.1 Spanish track, French 2.0 and an English DVS track along with English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles accompany the English 5.1 track.
Most of the extras are introduced by Steve Carell and contain cast and crew interviews throughout the many (and brief) featurettes. First up, however, is a selection of deleted scenes running near fifteen minutes in length; while they’re funny, like all deleted scenes they don’t add anything to the film and really would have just dragged it down, which isn’t something you want in a comedy.
Outtakes and Steve Carell Unscripted really feel like the same thing; the outtakes are, of course, people flubbing their lines and Carell Unscripted is him improving throughout the film, but mostly with hammer-to-thumb routines. There is a particularly humorous one where he nearly drops the F-bomb but says something about how he can’t say it in this movie.
“The Ark-itects of Noah’s Ark” and “A Flood of Visual Effects” take a look into the construction of the ark and the visual effects in the film; the pair run near fifteen minutes in length and despite them covering similar aspects of the film, they’re actually menus apart on the DVD—it seems like they finished one pass on the DVD and decided to make more quick featurettes from the footage and interviews they culled, rather than putting the extras in any kind of order.
“Becoming Noah” shows how Carell got ready each day in all of the hair and makeup; as expected, seeing hair being put on a person isn’t the most thrilling thing, but it’s worth watching just for Carell’s comments.
Next up is a pair of animal-centric extras, with “Animals on Set: Two by Two” which shows the animals and how they were trained for the film. This doesn’t just pertain to the more exotic animals in the film—it also shows the dog that the Baxter’s eventually keep in the end of the film and the various birds from the office sequence. There’s also an annoying “Animal Round-Up Game” that is just about the only kid-friendly extra here; of course, I shouldn’t say “friendly” because it’s really nothing that’d entertain a child.
A big focus on the extras on this set are the efforts the cast and crew made to “go green” for the production of the set. “The Almighty Green Set” covers the recycling efforts that were implemented during and after the production of the film and even goes into detail about how the cast and crew road bicycles around the set, something the director didn’t think many of the cast and crew would want a part of, but there was a large turnout—maybe it was just because they were free bikes. Anyway, next is “It’s Easy Being Green” where the cast and crew give tips on how you can save energy and benefit the environment. “Casting Call: Serengeti” showcases GE’s efforts to help the environment and “The Almighty Forest” is a long list of names of those who signed up for the films getonboard.com campaign.
The final extra (although at this point I’ve gone completely out of sequential order—this isn’t really the “last one” [I believe it was one of the “go green” extras], just the last one I’m talking about) is “Acts of Random Kindness” where the cast talks about acts of random kindness. This is the ultimate fluff extra at 1:46, I have to wonder what the overall point of it is—it really seems superfluous.
Some trailers (nearly all of which are kid-centric) round out the extras. Overall it’s a solid package, but the extras really are just a bunch of the usual DVD bonuses. The lack of commentary is a curious omission, but I guess what needed to be covered was mentioned in the extras. Like the film, the DVD comes Recommended—don’t expect much from the film, it’s just fun and entertaining to watch.
Evan Almighty is now available on DVD and HD-DVD.