BRUCE ALMIGHTY (2003)
Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Bell, Philip Baker Hall, Lisa Ann Walter, Steven Carell, Nora Dunn, Eddie Jemison, Sally Kirkland and Tony Bennett.
Screenplay by Steven Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekirk.
Directed by Tom Shadyac.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13.
I just don’t get Jim Carrey. I know the entire world busts a gut when he talks with his butt, but he almost always leaves me cold. I will give Carrey credit for this, in recent years he has attempted to stretch out and do more adventurous projects and more serious roles in Man In the Moon and The Majestic. The problem is neither did very well, either in box-office or critical respect.
Now, Carrey is falling back into his stock material, where emotions are telegraphed by a mug and a leer and where every line of dialogue is shouted for emphasis. On the plus side, Bruce Almighty has a very clever concept (a tiny bit too much like Oh, God!, but that’s okay…) Carrey plays a TV news reporter in Buffalo who is stuck doing cutesy human interest stories, but really wants to be a serious Anchorman and cover real news.
Now, in the scenes we actually see Bruce on camera, it doesn’t seem like he has the talent to deliver hard news, but we’re supposed to feel for him when his archrival is given the anchor slot over him. Carrey freaks out on the air (Jim Carrey movies always have lots of freaking out) and is fired. Then he is beaten up, gets into a fight with his girlfriend, crashes his car, and decides to blame God for ruining his life. Now, most people watching will be thinking, you were getting paid an obscene amount of money for a job you have no aptitude for, have a huge apartment that you share with Jennifer Aniston… how bad can your life be? But Bruce feels mistreated. So God offers to give him a chance to see if Bruce could do better.
Morgan Freeman is wonderful as God. His relaxed comic presence steals every scene from his hyperactive co-star, particularly in a scene where he explains to Bruce that he is giving the man his powers. Jennifer Aniston is just fine in the nothing role of Bruce’s long-suffering girlfriend (a schoolteacher named Grace, in case you didn’t get the fact that she is good.) The film won’t do much for Aniston’s post-Friends movie career, though. It may be a hit, but the “best supportive actress” character may undo some of the movie buzz she made in the adventurous role she played in The Good Girl. (I didn’t particularly like that movie, but I have to give her credit for accepting the part.)
But this movie rises and falls on Jim Carrey and as long as he’s on screen, I just couldn’t take it seriously. He’s kind of funny, but way over-the-top, early on when he uses his new superpowers to part soup, blow up passing women’s dresses, freak out bullies and seduce his girlfriend. The final part of the film gets a little sentimental for all the antics that preceded it. Bruce learns he didn’t have a bad life after all, and how hard God’s job is and how much he loves Grace. All of this, frankly, is outside Carrey’s dramatic range. If they decide to make a sequel, let’s just try two hours of Morgan Freeman as God, and leave out all the Bruce stuff. (5/03)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 31, 2003.