Bruce Almighty

The plot in a nutshell
Bruce Nolan, played by Jim Carrey, is a local newsman, doing those stupid fluff pieces that heís a natural with. No one takes him seriously, but thatís because heís such a goof. Still, he yearns for the anchor desk, and when things go wrong in his life, he blames God.

Godís not particularly amused. Played by Morgan Freeman, he gives Bruce his powers for awhile, and takes himself a vacation. Bruce manages to muck up his own life and the lives of everyone in Buffalo New York. By the end he learns not so much about what it means to be God, but what it means to be human.

Bruce Almighty
Bruce Almighty
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Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
Jim Carrey does two distinctly different types of films Ė silly comedies and Academy Award attempts.  Itís very clear that Carrey, who is a master of making people laugh with the dumbest jokes, also wants to be the great thespian, and wishes the world saw him as a Ďseriousí actor.  In between his hits like Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar and The Mask, he does films like The Majestic, The Truman Show, and Man on the Moon.  Bruce Almighty is one of the silly comedies, although itís more Liar Liar than Dumb and Dumber.  And it seems as though with Bruce Almighty Carrey might be making a statement about his own life, and perhaps the choices heís made.

Bruce Nolan is having a bad day.  Life is definitely not going the way heíd like it, and of course, biggest jerk he knows, Evan Baxter (played wonderfully by Steven Carell from The Daily Show and Watching Ellie) is getting all the breaks.  By the end of the day, heís managed to lose his job, get in a terrible fight with his oh-so-cute girlfriend (played by Jennifer Aniston), and find himself on a bridge, railing at God.  Notice a similarity to Itís a Wonderful Life?  Thatís no accident.  More about that in a minute.

God answers Bruce, although it takes a hell of a lot of effort to get Bruce to notice and answer.  Thereís some very funny bits leading into their first meeting, and much of the dialog and one liners are extremely funny.  Freeman is a great God, not quite the vaudeville version that George Burns was, but a smoother, more laid back and relaxed type.

Bruce uses his powers to do all the selfish things youíd expect, particularly from this character.  Weíre given ample opportunity to realize how self centered Bruce really is, although heís unable to see it himself.  Once he has Godís powers, he rights all the wrongs in his own life, but ends up creating havoc along the way.

This is probably where I had the greatest issue with the story itself.  There is too little time spent on the various consequences of Bruceís actions, and I kept expecting him to really notice the problems he was causing.  But he never really does, and he never really comes to grips with the powers God has given him.

Remember when I mentioned Itís a Wonderful Life?  This movie is as close to a remake as you can get without calling it one.  Oh, itís not obvious at first, but the two films are really examining the exact same subject.  This isnít a movie about learning what it would be like to be God, itís a movie about learning how being ourselves can effect the world around us.  In the 1947 Frank Capra classic, Jimmy Stewart learns what it would mean if he had no effect on the world.  In this film, Carrey learns what it would mean if he had too much effect on the world, and the results are pretty much the same.  Itís no surprise that there is even a clip from the older film used at one point here, as a visual clue to the connection, along with the very funny moon bit used in the previews.

But the movie works best as a goofy comedy, and the best scenes revolve around physical humor.  Some of the early scenes with Carrey interviewing the owners of a local bakery are some of the funniest in the film, and itís really him at his best.  Itís been awhile since I laughed out loud at a film, let alone at several times.  The funniest bit in the entire movie isnít Carreyís though Ė itís Steven Carell as the anchor.  In a scene that is shown briefly in the previews, Carell is controlled by Carrey and made to look stupid on the air.  Itís classic physical comedy, and Carell pulls it off amazingly well.  Itís also quite surprising that a big star like Carrey would hand off such a plum bit to another actor, and Iím impressed that his ego didnít get in the way.  Carrey gets plenty of opportunities to be funny though, and every time I see a post it note Iíll think of this movie.

Thereís plenty of one liners and visual jokes as well that will make you chuckle.  My favorite is how the woman news anchor, Susan Ortega, pronounces her last name with a heavy accent, trying to imply sheís far more ethnic than she is.  Itís one of those running jokes that they donít hit you over the head with, but if youíre paying attention youíll be amused.

The film gets bogged down in some of the message, which is really nothing more than learning to live and love and to stop focusing on money and fame, and you wonít leave the theater with a deeper understanding of the human condition.  But this movie is more about having some laughs and enjoying yourself than winning Academy Awards.

And maybe thatís the real message here.  Maybe Carrey has learned that chasing acceptance from his peers, through either a promotion to news anchor or a metal statue, isnít really whatís important.  Like Bruce, Carrey is a master of making people laugh, and maybe thatís enough for him.  Then again, how often do we take our own advice?

Rating - Wait for the DVD
Hey, wait a minute Ė didnít I like the movie?  Yep, it was worth seeing for the belly laughs, even though the story itself was pretty basic and non-descript.  It really is very much like Liar, Liar, another film where the message is pretty much the same Ė remember whatís important in life Ė and if you enjoyed that film, youíll enjoy Bruce Almighty.  Still, thereís no reason to spend twenty bucks on a trip to the big screen to see this.  Unlike films like X2 or Matrix Reloaded, youíll get just as much fun out of it on your screen at home.

Spoiler Laden Thoughts
Thereís nothing worth spoiling here, but the best news is that the funniest parts of the film were NOT in the trailers.

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