When one or two disasters at work follows disasters at home, Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) gets mad as hell and doesn’t want to take it anymore. Why isn’t God doing his job properly?! God (Morgan Freeman) responds with the age-old ‘you do it then’ routine, and hands Bruce all his almighty powers for a while, challenging him to do better. At first Bruce revels in the games he can play and paybacks he can deliver, but when his relationship with Grace (Jennifer Aniston) fails, he learns it’s his own powers that are needed to make him a better life. And a better man.
Review by Louise Keller:
Haven’t we all wished at one time or other, that we could control our own destiny! An inventive and hilarious parable about divine intervention, Bruce Almighty is a sparkling morality tale, which entertains at a rate faster than the speed of lightening. It’s a splendid showcase for Jim Carrey who displays the kind of physical comedy that comes so naturally. The set up is delicious as one final straw replaces another, and Bruce is at melting point. (We know exactly what it feels like to have ‘one of those days’, when everything conspires against us and everywhere we turn another door slams in our face!) ‘Send me a sign,’ Bruce pleads to God, when all his dreams are shot in one long ghastly swoop. A whole truckload of them go whizzing by – road signs transported in a truck – but still poor Bruce doesn’t see the light. The script is doggone clever and the ideas never stop coming. Take the running gag about the dog that pees in the apartment – on the furniture and on the stereo. It is milked for all its worth, taking it a couple of steps over the borderline of ridiculous. But that’s the skill of the filmmakers, to take everyday events and stretch them to the point that we can feel the pain. And laugh at them. After all, this is what we can all relate to so well – the problems and disappointments of every day life. There are some amusing scenes when Bruce tries out his newly acquired powers – who else would think of parting the red seas in a bowl of tomato soup at the local diner? And the appearance of a cute little monkey in a scene with some neighbourhood thugs brings some laughs. This is territory in which director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, Liar Liar) is quite at home, and the idea for Bruce to lasso the moon (inspired by Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life) to bring a touch of romance to his evening is a sweet one, never dreaming of the consequences. I love the notion of God downloading everyone’s prayers on his computer, and Bruce’s well-meaning solution to dealing with millions of emails is a classic. Morgan Freeman makes a dignified and credible God, inflicting just enough cheek to endear him to us, while Jennifer Aniston brings empathy and understanding to Grace, whose needs are basically very simple. The balance between humour and drama is nicely drawn, and while Bruce Almighty is mainly about making you laugh, it also has enough heart to bring a lump to your throat. I laughed and it felt good. There are a few morals to this story: ‘Be careful who you wish you were’ is one of them, and next time someone accuses you of rolling your eyes, if you see this movie, you will have the perfect answer.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Much funnier and more entertaining than I expected, Bruce Almighty is a playful essay on the human condition with Jim Carrey as the everyman standing in for God, first to have some fun, second to hit some schmalzy messages about genuine human decency; what we SHOULD pray for, not the selfish stuff we DO pray for. Inside this concept lurks the ever-present romance, and the metaphor of falling out with Grace (geddit?) signals the sort of journey Bruce has to make to understand himself and his life. But it’s the fun bits that work best, and the first half of the film is most engaging. I certainly can relate to the character who finds his life a series of misfortunes; even the minor frustrations carry greater impact when placed at the end of a queue of them. I can laugh with painful recognition at his failures and misadventures, even if I don’t laugh at my own. That’s comedy. The all-important sequence of Bruce being almightied is well conceived and directed, taking us into the fantasy with ease. The idea for the film could have been developed in more dramatic terms had our anti-hero been truly downtrodden, truly disadvantaged and truly accident prone. As it is, Bruce is – in relative terms – pretty well off with a job, a car and a cute girlfriend. His fate is much better than most others’ on this planet. But if the script had been seriously about God’s will, it would have required us to suspend belief to a far greater extent than in this fluppy form. The humour comes from a combination of situation, character and Carrey, the latter working his butt off to splice together his juvenile sense of physical and plain silly comedy (reminds me a bit of the Goons, just a tad) and the more sophisticated material inherent in the concept. Had Carrey and director Shadyac been given their head, and without the sermons and the schmalz, Bruce Almighty could have been a riot – but probably not fit for studio distribution. As it is, it’s too respectful and righteous to be edgy and dangerous, so you can take your most conservative maiden aunt, even if she’s a Christian.
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JIM CARREY INTERVIEW by Jenny Cooney Carrillo
BRUCE ALMIGHTY (M)
CAST: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter
PRODUCER: Michael Bostick, James D. Brubaker, Jim Carrey, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Tom Shadyac
DIRECTOR: Tom Shadyac
SCRIPT: Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Steve Oedekerk (story by Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler
EDITOR: Scott Hill
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Linda DeScenna
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 19, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: November 26, 2003