Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Movie – Bruce Almighty (2003)

What if you were given God’s powers?  What would you do?  Maybe you’d have fun for a while.  Maybe you’d even turn evil.  After all, Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  On the other hand, Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Having God’s powers means having to deal with all the issues that come to him, too.  This is the premise of the film Bruce Almighty.  It’s a movie with some good laughs in it, but also a bit of a message.

Buffalo TV newsman Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is having a rough time.  He is forced to do puff pieces about baking the world’s largest cookie, when what he really wants to do is be the news anchor.  He takes his frustration out on his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston).  One day he is doing a story and is expecting to hear that he has been awarded the news anchor position, but instead it goes to his nemesis at the station Evan Baxter (Steve Carell).  Bruce has a meltdown on live television and is subsequently fired for it.  He curses God for all the bad stuff that has been happening to him.

He eventually ends up at a building that mysteriously seems to have only one occupant, an elderly black janitor (Morgan Freeman).  Bruce goes up to the seventh floor for a meeting – only to find the same man there.  He tells Bruce that he’s really God and he heard Bruce’s complaints.  He’s going to give Bruce his powers and a fraction of his responsibilities, since Bruce thinks he can do a better job.  Of course Bruce thinks he’s either lying or insane, but after a few demonstrations, Bruce is a true believer.

Bruce enjoys himself with his new powers.  He gets his old job back, and humiliates Evan.  He teaches his dog to use the toilet.  He drives a hot sports car (with the license plate “ALMIGHTY 1”) and makes all the lights turn green and all cars move to the side when he is driving.  He even uses his powers to pull the Moon closer for the romantic mood, and then drives Grace wild with pleasure from the next room, including a funny, spontaneous orgasm just to get her warmed up.  The next morning he innocently denies noticing that anything is different when she asks him if her breasts look bigger to him.

It’s not all fun and games, though.  Pulling the Moon closer had effects on gravity and caused earthquakes in Japan.  Bruce has also not been paying attention to all the people in the Buffalo area who are calling out to God to help them.  The real God shows up to remind him of his responsibilities.  Bruce tries to get a handle on all of these people by representing their prayers as email (to “Yahweh.com”).  He starts reading them, but after a few decides he doesn’t want to deny anyone like God denied him, so he grants all wishes.  This backfires because of all the havoc it wreaks on the economy and people’s lives due to the things they wished for (like being rich).  Bruce has still got some big lessons to learn.

Carrey is his usually wacky self, having a ball with his character’s Godlike powers.  Aniston does a good job, and should be given credit for working on this film, another movie titled Along Came Polly, and her TV show Friends all at the same time.  This was the first film I ever saw Steve Carell in, and to be honest I didn’t really see anything special in his performance.  I certainly wouldn’t have predicted the career success he was going to have.

Incidentally, Carell ended up being the lead in the quasi-sequel to this film – the 2007 movie Evan Almighty.  In this film God (Morgan Freeman again) appears to Evan, who is now a junior Senator from New York, and tells Evan to build an ark.  Any number of Noah jokes follow.  It’s not as funny as the original, and Jim Carrey does not appear in it.

Filmmakers are not gods, although some probably think they are.  They do have the power to wreak havoc on some people’s lives, though.  In this case, the folks who made Bruce Almighty used real phone numbers in the movie, which caused tons of problems for people in the U.S. who had those numbers.  This is the reason phone companies reserve the “555” prefix for filmmakers' use.  When the movie was released on DVD they did change these phone numbers to fake ones to avoid more issues.

Bruce Almighty doesn’t get too preachy.  I’m not a religious person, but I didn’t find any of the events or messages in the film to be overbearing.  Of course, if you think the concept of religion and God should be treated super seriously then you may want to avoid this movie.  For everyone else, I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. A lot of funny moments in this. Loved the fact that they chose Freeman to play God--that voice of his seals the deal.

    1. Agreed. I almost wrote something along the lines of "with his voice, Freeman was almost born to play the role." I'm actually surprised that having a black actor play God didn't attract much controversy from the more sensitive people out there.

  2. "What if you were given God’s powers?"

    Just the usual stuff -- cure a bunch of diseases, end world hunger, conjure my own fully-functional, real-world rendition of Voltron (with all the defiance of physics therein)...you know nothing special.

    In any case, I kind of like this movie. Not exactly a rip-snorter, but it had some nice ideas and some real thought put into it. Incidentally, I remember Bruce Almighty more than its sequel, so I suppose you can take that as an additional measure of quality.

    Anyway, good review. Although...should I be a little worried over the fact that one of your labels is "Funny Orgasms"? Is that a common thing here on Tips From Chip -- or just movies in general? 0_o

    1. I group movies into categories, drawing parallels and/or comparisons among films that people might not otherwise lump together. Rather than use categories like "drama", "comedy", "action", etc., I have categories like "Ballet Dancers Kick Ass", "Commentaries in Character", "Great Human Beings", "Narrated by Dead People", and, yes, "Funny Orgasms". My intent with these different kinds of categories is to provide a little bit of fun for everyone.

      For each category I do a header post first that explains the grouping. As I post the movies for that category I go back and add links to the parent post to those reviews. If you look a little further back you'll find the parent post for this latest category. You can also see all 39 categories that I have done so far listed at the bottom of the Index of Movies Reviewed page, which has a link at the upper right.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I hope you take the time to explore a little bit more here.

  3. Great review! I really enjoyed the movie - it may be my favorite comedy with Carrey, right after Dumb and Dumber. He was hilarious here and Morgan Freeman was a great choice for God - he has this look of a very wise and gentle man. I liked Carrel in this one, the scene where Bruce messes with him as Evan is on air made me laugh the hardest. And that hilarious slow-mo scene with Vangelis music in the background :)

    1. My biggest laugh was probably the bit where they found Jimmy Hoffa's remains "including a complete set of dental records buried with him." Thanks