"Bruce Almighty" saw Jim Carrey playing a newscaster angry enough at life that God decides to let him have his powers while on vacation, to give Bruce the chance to see if he couldn't do things better. The film offered a few laughs, but was mostly disappointing, as the script didn't do anything particularly inspired with the concept and some of the gags fell flat. Yet, the film was a success, which resulted in what seemed like an awfully unnecessary sequel focusing on Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carrell), who was a supporting character in the first film.
"Evan Almighty" opens with Evan Baxter giving up his newscaster job in order to become a Congressman. He's got a wife named Joan (Lauren Graham) and three sons Dylan (Johnny Simmons), Jordan (Graham Phillips) and Ryan (Jimmy Bennett) - and, as we find early in the movie, not enough time to spend with his family.
Shortly after Evan gets settled in his new office, in he begins to notice that quite a few things reference "GEN 6:14" and, shortly afterwards, in pops God (Morgan Freeman), who has a request for Evan: build an ark with the wood he's had delivered. Evan, who is not exactly religious, doesn't believe God's requests, even when God starts popping in everywhere. Then come the animals: pairs of them, who follow Evan throughout his day. To make matters worse, Evan grows a beard he can't get rid of - even when he shaves, it instantly reappears.
Not surprisingly, his wife thinks he's crazy and his co-workers (including Wanda Sykes, who adds a welcome dose of bitter humor to balance the film's sappiness) think he's even crazier. Yet, he keeps building and starts to believe in his efforts. As for the others not believing him, I mean, do they not see the fact that his beard grows instantly back and that animals literally follow him everywhere? Does anyone not notice that giant animals are walking down the streets of Washington, D.C.
The flood eventually does appear, and while Evan saves some people and more than a few animals, the movie doesn't exactly dwell on the fact that the flood swept through the streets of D.C. The ending makes the journey seem a little ridiculous, but the big finale sequence offers some decent visual effects.
Still, one has to wonder about the film's reported $175-200m budget, making it the most expensive comedy ever made. While the film offers a fairly sizable effects sequence and some other effects work to create the crowds of animals, the picture is otherwise a fairly chatty comedy and one wonders how it could cost in the same neighborhood as a "Titanic" and more than twice what the bill for the first film was.
All that said, this is a better movie than the first one. Some of the jokes fall flat (there's a montage of Carrell hitting himself while working on the ark), but the movie has more heart than the first picture, and that's largely due to Carrell's excellent performance. The actor manages to not only do the required slapstick well, but give a boost to the film's lines by his particular style of delivery, which gives the jokes an appealing, almost improv-like quality.
Carrell not only makes the comedy funnier than what it is on the page, but he actually makes the sappy, sentimental moments of this movie feel a little more grounded and engaging than they'd be otherwise. Lauren Graham is a little underused, but she still makes a decent impression as Carrell's stressed wife. John Goodman also gives a satisfactory effort as the villain of the piece - a Congressman who is trying to use Baxter to pass his bill.
Overall, "Evan Almighty" isn't a flawless movie by any means and the film still doesn't ultilize the concept as well as it could, but Carrell's performance carries the film well and a few more jokes (one of the best sight gags in the film has a group of fish in a giant tank gather around the glass next to Carrell's character) work this time around than last.
VIDEO: "Evan Almighty" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is just fine, if not particularly remarkable in any way. Sharpness and detail are reasonably good, as the picture looked crisp and detailed, although not crystal clear. Some slight edge enhancement and a couple of minor traces of artifacting were spotted, but no print flaws or other concerns were seen. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Evan Almighty" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound mix is largely dialogue-driven, with little in the way of surround use throughout much of the movie. Still, when required - such as during the big finale - the rear speakers definitely do offer convincing sound effects. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and clear music.
EXTRAS: There isn't a commentary, but instead a series of featurettes and a few other odds and ends. One of the more interesting featurettes is "The Almighty Green Set", a look into how the film's production tried to be a "Green" (environmentally friendly) set (given that this is a film about protecting the planet, the film's cast and crew wanted to follow the message of the movie.) This included director Tom Shadyac buying the entire production bikes so that travel of short distances around the set would not have to be done by car. The production also planted 2,000 trees and donated any usable wood and materials at the end of the production to Habitat for Humanity.
"Steve Carrell Unscripted" is a few minutes of Carrell goofing around on-set. "A Flood of Visual Effects" runs several minutes and has the effects designers chatting about their work on the major end sequence. "It's Easy Being Green" and "Acts of Random Kindess" are two message featurettes. "Casting Call: Serengeti" is a joke piece about casting the creatures, while "The Almighty Forest" is a short thanks to those who helped in the production's project to plant trees.
"The Ark-Itects of Noah's Ark" features discussion of how the enormous ark in the film actually had to be built for real on a vacant lot and "Becoming Noah" shows the rather painful process that Carrell had to go through to get the beard and wig on each day. "Animals on the Set Two-by-Two" talks about having the most animals on-set in showbiz history and how those animals had to be taught to do many specific, different behaviors. Finally, we also get the "Animal Roundup Game", 14 minutes of deleted/extended scenes and a few minutes of outtakes. The featurettes have short intros from Carrell.
Final Thoughts: "Evan" isn't without some issues: the movie still doesn't do enough with the concept and some of the jokes are bland. Still, Carrell's performance carries the film pretty well, as the actor's delivery elevates some of the material and makes this is a better film than the original. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a lot of minor extras. Those who haven't seen the film should try a rental first.