Bruce Almighty Review

by Jerry Saravia (faust668 AT aol DOT com)
June 25th, 2003

Reviewed by Jerry Saravia
June 23rd, 2003
RATING: Two stars and a half

There was a time when Jim Carrey could make one's heart miss a beat with his anything-goes comedic hijinks - a mixture of the slapstick with a physical prowess that was unlike anything ever seen before. Carrey didn't just make us laugh by making faces or talking out of his derriere - he was the comedic equivalent of the Plastic Man. He could contort his body to do the kind of acts that could realistically cause herniated disks. With "Bruce Almighty," Carrey is rather toned-down from his usual manic act. More restrained than usual, I got the feeling that he wanted to apologize for making even the most rubbery facial expression.

Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a feature reporter for Eyewitness News in Buffalo. He longs to be anchor and be known for something besides the customary tag line, "and that's how the cookie crumbles." He is the butt of jokes in the office and even his boss (Philip Baker Hall) does not take him seriously (Bruce is later fired for making obscene remarks in a live broadcast at Niagara Falls). Bruce's devoted girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) feels slighted when he calls his life mediocre. All it takes is for him to be given a second chance by God Himself (Morgan Freeman). This God lives in some abandoned warehouse, mops the floor, fixes the electricity, and wears a snappy white outfit. He offers Bruce a chance to redeem himself (and for his blasphemous name-calling) by taking over as God for seven days, utilizing all His powers to do anything he wants except the use of free will. Bruce starts tearing up Buffalo by getting revenge on some hoodlums who had beaten him up; create a fountain of water out of a fire hydrant; mimic parting the Red Sea in a bowl of tomato soup; get his reporter job back by mysteriously finding the remains of Jimmy Hoffa; make a rival news reporter fumble his newscast; literally lasso a moon and force it to come closer to the Earth's surface (a cute Capraesque nod to "It's a Wonderful Life"); make his girlfriend grow larger breasts and get the orgasm of her life, and so on. All of this adds up to a fun-filled first hour of pure delight - all we can do is wait and see what Bruce will come up with next.

The trailer for "Bruce Almighty" indicated nothing more than pure laughs based on Bruce's extraordinary powers. Alas, there is more up the film's sleeve, and not all of it is as funny as its initial premise. God is sad to see Bruce using his powers to his heart's content, never thinking for a moment that maybe people's prayers need to be answered. In other words, Bruce has to amend for his blasphemous name-calling and his selfish needs in order to help others, particularly his girlfriend who dumps him after finding him kissing another woman. What we get is the constant referencing to God and constant praying - if you are selfish, God can help you. All you need to do is pray for a miracle. The last thing I would expect from a Jim Carrey flick is a religious sermon.
"Bruce Almighty" has a few laugh-out-loud moments, and quite a few superb zingers. Carrey and Aniston have sparkling chemistry and seem to really play two people who are deeply in love. In fact, the final scenes where Aniston pleads for his return, even if she wants to forget him, is truly touching. Carrey also has the ability to make me care about him in ways that few actors can accomplish (even the ugly "Grinch" elicited a brief emotional response from me). It's just that for such an inventive premise, the movie opts to rationalize and moralize Bruce's behavior, making us think that such brazen use of the Almighty's powers is not enough - we have to realize it is also wrong to use them to our own advantage. It may also mirror Carrey's own amending for his purely maniacal and physical humor. Why should he apologize for what made him so popular in the first place?

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