Archive for Noah’s Ark

Film Review: Evan Almighty (2007)

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by innothingwetrust

SPOILER ALERT. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS, DON’T READ ON. BUT THINK NOAH’S ARK

Two concessions before writing this – firstly, I have not seen this film’s predecessor, Bruce Almighty. However, I get the impression that this is not particularly necessary as at no point was the Jim Carrey film referenced or alluded to. Secondly, my attention was a little bit divided during my viewing as I was also playing Football Manager at the time and approaching the squeaky-bum-end of a treble winning season (including, I might add, a third consecutive Champions League win). But I digress. Evan Almighty came on midway through a lazy Saturday afternoon and I watched it from start to finish, so, by my own rules, I have to review it.

Evan Almighty starts well enough. There is little pretence and we are told in the very first scene that our news anchor protagonist Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) is leaving his post on TV after being elected to congress. The ‘introductions’ are completed within about 5 minutes; we are shown Evan’s impossibly perfect family, his brand new mansion, his new colleagues and the scene is set. However, Evan begins scratching his head when deliveries of increasing quantities of tools and timber arrive at his front door and he is followed around by pairs of various animals which cause no end of problems for him at work. His greedy new boss (Jon Goodman) is less and less impressed with Baxter’s eccentricity and suddenly Evan’s bright new future is in jeopardy. However, after God (Morgan Freeman) appears to Evan and manages to convince him that he isn’t going mad, he sets out to fulfil the role chosen for him at the expense of his job, his family and his sanity. The problem is that… well, it’s just not that funny.

Anyone expecting that Carrell and Jonah Hill’s inclusion should signal a Judd Apatow-style, foul-mouthed gross-out would be both naive and mistaken. Nor does the film call for that kind of adolescent indulgence – this is a family film, after all. So instead we have CGI animals, father-son banter, musical montages (a bit too sickly for my liking) and awkward workplace situations. There are some very funny moments; the birds defecating on Baxter’s suit is a nice touch and Steve Carrell manages to make hitting his thumb with a hammer and falling over repeatedly whilst suppressing his urge to vociferously blaspheme (something which might have looked pretty tedious in the script) thoroughly entertaining. There is also a nice nod to one of Carrell’s previous films when Baxter passes a cinema advertising ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin Mary’. However, my inner teenager (which to be honest is basically my entire persona) was disappointed that there was not a single ‘that’s what she said’ during the Ark construction scenes which are a veritable minefield of childish innuendo (“Give me that pole”, “Is it in yet?”, “Just ram it in”, “This thing is massive”). Such lines could have been another Easter Egg referencing Carrell’s role as David Brent’s American counterpart, Michael Scott in the fantastic American version of The Office. Admittedly, this might have lowered the tone a little and been out of Baxter’s character, but it still would have been another funny joke in a film where in general the laughs are too few and far between, making the wait for the inevitable flood seem longer than it needs to be.

Perhaps my split focus between the imaginary characters on screen and the (very real) football players on my computer was down to the fact that this story just isn’t very compelling. When you are dealing with a pre-known plotline, your movie becomes about the characters and how they muddle through it. In Titanic, you weren’t on the edge of your seat because you didn’t know what was going to happen to the massive boat but because the leading characters were playing out a gripping and perfectly paced sub-plot and turning in excellent performances in the process. You felt the panic and chaos through the fantastic special effects and the claustrophobic atmosphere and you raged at the unfairness of the class divisions and the pomposity of the fabulously wealthy. Or, if you are a philistine, you were saying “Ahhh it’s just a load of old love crap”. Either way, the film’s already-famous key events were no more than a setting for the real story.

Not the case with Evan Almighty I’m afraid. This is basically a modern adaptation which is confused as to whether it is going to go the whole-hog and recreate the Biblical story for a modern audience or upgrade the story from an impossible parable* to something which could plausibly happen. For example (spoiler alert), the global flood is downgraded to a more believable local dam bursting to tie-in with the sub-plot. This element is thrown in at the last minute by Jonah Hill’s brown-nosing clerk; an afterthought which exposes the fact that too much time is spent on the jokes and high jinks for the story to make much sense. But at least that could happen, which cannot be said about the situation regarding the animals co-habiting on the Ark.

I would like to have seen at least a discussion of the types of problems discussed in this brilliant cartoon from NonStampCollector (this is part 1 of 2, the link for the 2nd part is at the end of this):

But to be fair, seeing as the whole story is downscaled, I guess it doesn’t matter that there aren’t representatives of every single species on Earth (although that fact is never mentioned, there are clearly nowhere near enough animals for there to be one of every single species). But then if the flood was only going to crash through D.C, why did God have Evan build an Ark at all? And why populate it with animals? Were the futures of the elephant and crocodile species really in danger? The more you think about it, this story makes even less sense than the Biblical original. I mean, forgive me for perhaps over-thinking this, but if the God in the film is one which has the power to actually affect events on Earth, such as appearing corporeally to people, making deliveries of wood appear out of thin air and pairs of every animal congregate in one spot, shouldn’t he have used that power to just fix the dam in the first place? Even if there was a wider point about saving acres of countryside from Jon Goodman’s wallet-lining housing development legislation, was this really the best course of action? It is also rather strange to see Freeman’s God ‘doing the dance’ after thousands of innocent people have just been drowned, but still.

Questionable ethics aside, this is only ever an average comedy film. It is probably more enjoyable for kids, but for us adults it’s less ‘Evan Almighty’ and more ‘Evan Alrighty’.

RATING: 6/10

*If this site is no longer here tomorrow, it is because I have been shut down by the Fundamentalist Christian Police and extradited to Texas to await trial and probably the death penalty. I would like to take this opportunity to just thank anyone who read my ramblings and supported me, it’s been a blast.

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