Bruce Almighty
Directed by Tom Shadyac
Written by Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe
Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston

 

Bruce Almighty

The master mugger is back, and he's almost bad enough to destroy a perfectly good comedy. Almost, but not quite. "Bruce Almighty" does give Jim Carrey too much face time - no one, not even God in this case, can hold him back - but there are enough redeeming features to the film that we can survive even his worst case of the hams.

The film casts Carrey as Bruce Nolan, feature reporter for Buffalo's Channel 7 News. He's desperate for the evening anchor job but everything about his life seems to conspire against him. His rival for the job, played by the versatile Steven Carell (from the Daily Show), humiliates him at the station. He gets beaten up trying to help a homeless man. He has to cover things like the story of Buffalo's largest homemade cookie (10 feet 7 inches in diameter), as well as the 158th anniversary of Niagara Falls' 'Maid of the Mist,' while his rival gets the anchor job. And so on. He complains bitterly to God, and thenů.

God, or in this case Morgan Freeman, calls, and if ever someone was the perfect choice for the role it's Freeman. That dry, understated delivery, the knowing smile and the expressive eyes make him as good as it's possible for a human to be. And Jennifer Aniston, as Bruce's girlfriend, is open to the camera and believable in the very difficult role of having to live with being upstaged by Carrey in every scene.

God gives Bruce his powers, in hopes that he will come to understand what a tough job it is. As you've seen in the trailer, Bruce likes to get even much more than he likes to grow up, which you and I know he will do before the end of the film. In the meantime we watch him do his adolescent things, some of which are witty and one that is brilliant. Let me point out that the brilliance comes from a great piece of work by Carell, now the anchor, as he's tormented on the air by Carrey as God, who makes him speak in tongues of every variety. The bit of the scene you saw in the trailer is bad for two reasons: first there's no context and second there's no payoff. Carell gives us one of the great moments in film comedy, in about a minute and a half of screen time, and if there really was a god in movie heaven he would be properly rewarded for it.

When Carrey is not mugging he is both screen-handsome and amazingly lithe (his waist must be smaller than Aniston's). He has all the tools for a career as a leading man, but by refusing to act - to get inside his characters - and choosing to hog the screen in every scene of every film, he throws his talent away and demeans his work. It doesn't help that his film choices have been sentimental at best and hideously unfunny the rest of the time. His director here is Tom Shadyac, who evidently knows enough to keep Carrey in the middle of the frame at all times (Shadyac directed "Liar Liar" and "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective"). Carrey is a man who would like to be Charlie Chaplin - who also built everything around himself - but he fatally lacks Chaplin's genius.