Bruce Almighty Reviewby Karina Montgomery (karina AT cinerina DOT com)
May 31st, 2003
Matinee and snacks
Do you even need me to tell you I liked this movie? Anyone familiar with my tastes can just stop reading here because of course I really, really like a Jim Carrey vehicle co-starring Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston! If that previous sentence mystifies you, I'll go into further detail.
Jim Carrey is one of the most underrated physical actors of our time. People line up for his low brow mugging and/or shameless rubberfaced antics, laugh their heads off, and then decry him as a jackanapes stoolie of the Hollywood machine. But they don't admit (as it was once long ago hard for me to admit) that he makes you laugh harder and more often than just a pompadour and crossed eyes would suggest was possible. His whole body swoops in with the line, his lean 6' 2" frame curving around his words with a titan expressiveness that most people can only approximate with "finger quotes." He also can act. With real depth of feeling. No one will let him. Not unlike his character, Bruce Nolan, a wacky human interest reporter for a local news show, through whom Carrey can play with his own history and make it entertainment for us.
Nolan is going nowhere, and as a result is self-involved and blames God. So, he gets a turn at the wheel, makes some mistakes, learns some lessons, and he even made me cry at the end, but he also cracked me up! We are laughing at the misfortunes of a man whom no one will allow to get serious, so drunk with power that he makes his life worse, and ultimately has to accept his blessing as a funnyman to make peace with himself and the world. And we're watching it in a movie as well!
Carrey is as good a dramatic actor as Robin Williams (think Fisher King), but the market ignores or pans every Majestic Man on the Moon effort when he deserves recognition for genuine, fully committed performances in those films. Acting behind comedy always makes comedy funnier, because it's more genuine, more committed, more - what's he word - natural and real. Not egotistical mugging like a certain International Man of Mystery I could name. Carrey hides his acting behind hilarious, wildly athletic, deeply sincere physicality so we will accept him.
Bruce Almighty is funny, but it's not MTV gag-a-minute hilarity. The jokes set up and build and pay off. The whole movie is a big pay off by the end. Director Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar) knows how to play Carrey's instrument in such a way that he can have a real story in his movie and still play up the laughs and the supernatural aspects to the hilt. It is weird, in this cynical, secular age, having major comedians Aniston and Carrey talk about God (at least it wasn't an argument about which apostle was the most rapturous) and be serious, but it doesn't feel forced. The film is funny and witty, and it also has good old sweetness and pathos.
The "serious" parts of the film involve Carrey and his long-suffering girlfriend, played by Aniston. We know her comedic chops are up to it, from Friends, and we know her acting chops are there too, from the Good Girl, but can she survive as the moll to Carrey's whirlwind? She can and she does. She gets a more complex role as his foil and his goil, his goal and, ultimately, his soul. And she gets to be funny all on her own as well.
Obviously, I praise Shadyac for typecasting Morgan Freeman as God. I haven't been so pleased with a cinema God since George Burns. He is serious and grave, mirthful and full of joy. Freeman gets to play and he gets to be the one force that can tame Carrey, no small feat.
Bonus: The Daily Show's Steve Carell playing, of all things, a news correspondent, and his smarmy, hilarious shtick makes for some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Can you spot the Liar Liar reference? (Or Mr. Freeman's Ace Ventura reference?) It's a good story with great gags, great execution, and a great deal of heart as well. Jim, I believe in you. Go see it.
These reviews (c) 2003 Karina Montgomery. Please feel free to forward but credit the reviewer in the text. Thanks. You can check out previous reviews at:
http://www.cinerina.com and http://ofcs.rottentomatoes.com - the Online Film Critics Society http://www.hsbr.net/reviews/karina/listing.hsbr - Hollywood Stock Exchange Brokerage Resource
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