Morgan Freeman and Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.
Throughout Bruce Almighty, different characters keep telling Jim Carrey's Bruce Nolan that there's nothing wrong with making people laugh. I wish Jim Carrey would listen to them. The man who began his career with the childish but funny Ace Ventura and The Mask movies has turned his back on his comedic roots, instead churning out so-so movies like The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and the truly awful The Majestic. While Bruce Almighty is a return to comedy for him, it doesn't generate the laughs of his earlier work and leans too much into sappy sentimentality.
The movie makes several pointed tributes to It's a Wonderful Life even showing a part of it being played on TV in the background. Like the classic Christmas movie it's about a man frustrated with life who is given a gift by God that changes him. Unlike George Bailey, who seemed like he deserved God's intervention, Bruce Nolan is whiney and self-absorbed. God's motive for choosing him for such a gift is dubious at best.
When Bruce is passed over for the Anchorman position on a local Buffalo news program, he freaks out on the air in one of the movies funniest moments. Later, after being fired, he rants against the injustice of God. Surprisingly, at least to those people who haven't seen the previews, God (Morgan Freeman) shows up and tells Bruce that if he thinks he can do a better job than he should give it a try. He grants Bruce Godlike powers, at least over the Buffalo area.
Suddenly becoming God might tempt some people to try to change the world, but not Bruce. He's too self-absorbed to change anything but his own life. He makes his wife's breasts bigger, he makes his dog use the toilet, he schemes to get his job back (not hard when you're God), and ignores anything that doesn't affect him. He also tries to win back his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston in an underused role), who left him because he was such a selfish jerk to begin with.
Of course all the God given power hi-jinks lead to some laughs, but all of the best jokes have been given away in the previews. One joke, that he uses e-mail to respond to prayers, is shown so often in the previews that it completely took away the punch line after the overly long set-up as Bruce tries to work out the best way to keep track of all the prayers.
In the end Bruce learns one of Hollywood's little life lessons and we learn that Jim Carrey, while still funny, needs to be more circumspect in choosing his scripts.
Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.
I agree with Scott that Bruce Almighty is mildly funny and a bit too sappy. Jim Carrey seems to be attempting to reconcile the fact that he has yet to cross over into dramatic success by combining his famous over-the-top comic persona with more subtle and intelligent character development. Still Bruce Almighty relies too heavily on special effects and Hollywood schmaltz. And will studios ever learn to stop showing all of the funniest bits in the preview?
What Bruce Almighty does have going for it is the desire we all have to be God. The movie successfully plays into this by showing Bruce using his powers to do things we all would like to do - part traffic, get his job back, make a fool of his rival - all by the merest wish. It is only when Bruce starts looking at the bigger picture and starts trying to help others, that the movie gets overly corny.
Morgan Freeman does a good God. Similar in spirit to George Burns version of the ultimate deity only with more dignity. He plays well off of Carrey's manic energy. Jennifer Aniston gives her throw-away role everything she has and as a result makes the part much more interesting than it is written. She does the vulnerable, sexy girlfriend role better than most.
Bruce Almighty is a breezy and enjoyable comedy that will most likely make trons of money. Still with such talent involved it could have been so much better.
Jennifer Aniston and Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty.
Perhaps it is Scott and Patrick's lack of any conventional spirituality that made it so hard for them to enjoy Bruce Almighty? This movie shows respect for God and the power there of. It's just too bad that liberal Hollywood politics are disguised as God's teachings.
Yes, the movie can get a bit sappy. Early on Bruce is all pissy because he is stuck in traffic due to an accident. Near the end of the movie, he is again stuck in traffic because someone has car trouble. Only this time he helps the stranded driver out instead of pissing and moaning about it. It's a Wonderful Life is the sappiest movie ever made. It's still a great movie.
I agree with my brothers in that this movie is not Carrey's funniest. His other comedies were just comedies. Bruce Almighty is a comedy with a message. Sorry if that ruins the movie for you, but I think there is room for such a movie. Although I am not clear on what that floor mopping scene is supposed to represent? Bruce cleaning up his life?
The message Bruce finally gets is that it is okay to just be a man on the street reporter and not a high paying news anchor. We are responsible for our lives and we must sometimes work hard to get what we want. Early in the film all Bruce does is complain about the dog peeing all over the apartment. Man, that place must stink. By the end of the film he is teaching Rover to go outside.
This movie is a bit screwed up philosophically. Bruce's girlfriend made the free will choice to live with him in hopes of a marriage proposal. Yet when she doesn't get it, it is as if Bruce is in the wrong. Freeman's God says that a single mother who works and still takes her kids to soccer is a miracle. I think a woman who avoids becoming a single mother is a miracle. Other than the inconsistent messages, I loved this movie. It didn't preach any particular religion, yet it comes through with the moral that we are responsible for what we do in life. Unless of course you're a girl shacking up with someone hoping it leads to a marriage proposal.
Photos © Copyright Universal Studios (2003)