Evan Almighty

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STUDIO: Universal
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 96 Minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Animals On Set Two By Two
• Animal Roundup Game
• Steve Carrell Unscripted
• The Ark-itects Of Noah’s Ark

The Pitch

Evan Baxter is tasked by God to build an ark in order to save the entire animal kingdom from a flood of biblical proportions. And it’s a comedy!

The Humans

The Director: Tom Shadyac

The Actors: Steve Carrell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill

The Writer: Steve Odeneirk

Yes, this is the caliber of religious puns in this movie.

The Nutshell

Newly elected Congressman Evan Baxter (Carrell reprising his role from the first film) is an idealist who wants to “change the world.” Soon after starting his new job, Baxter unwittingly gets his wish when he is visited by God (Morgan Freeman, looking like a tropical yoga instructor,) and told that he must build an ark. To aid him in his mission, Yogi Freeman gifts unto Baxter some old-world, ship building tools (not CGI!), the ability to communicate with animals (bad CGI!), and spontaneous hair growth.

Meanwhile, Baxter’s mentor (and powerful committee chairman,) Rep. Chuck Long, is not too pleased with his protégé’s growing religious eccentricities. Apparently, being the reincarnation of Noah is not very statesman-like. Oh yeah, and Baxter’s family thinks he might be going crazy too. Can he build the ark and not lose his career and family in the process? And just how much flood is funny and how much is terribly unfunny?

I’ve seen this movie before. It was called jackass number two.

The Lowdown

The filmmakers chose to approach the Noah story from the environmental angle, which isn’t all that important to the original parable, but here in 2007 is obvious from the very beginning. For all of it’s heavy-handedness, the message ends up being very diffuse, settling for vague and simplistic. As much as I can agree with the sentiment, I found the film doesn’t have much to say on the subject other than corruption and over-development is bad.

Like a lot of high concept comedies, the jokes start off strong and get weaker as things like plot and character development creep into the picture. Once the film exhausts any comedy to be made about Baxter’s excessive grooming habits and ensuing filthiness (or how he’s more popular with the animals than Snow White on her flow,) the jokes. Slow. Down. The film is happy to coast on the charm of its lead for stretches of its running time. People who have seen The Office or The 40 Year Old Virgin will find Carrell’s performance as Evan Baxter familiar, but it never feels like he’s phoning it in (even when the script is.)

This is actually pretty funny.

Besides Carrell’s very solid job as lead, supporting players Wanda Sykes and Jonah Hill have a few funny moments as members of Baxter’s staff, but they only pop into scenes to lighten the mood and then they’re gone. Meanwhile, Lauren Graham, playing one of the most thankless forms of “movie wife,” does well with what little the script throws her way. John Goodman makes a decent Washington fat cat for the short time he’s onscreen. Its not one of his more memorable performances, but like Morgan Freeman, he’s pretty reliable from film to film. Here, both of them serve their purposes well in the story– no more or less. I suspect large chunks of this film were improvised, which explains why the comedians left an impression with me, and the actors did not.

Perhaps the film’s biggest flaw is it never makes the flood (or Evan’s mission) feel epic or “god-sized.” Behind all the jokes, there isn’t a sense that should Evan fail, he or someone or something he loves, would be jeopardized. Not even for a little bit. And even when his family does leave, it isn’t long before they’re back home, helping him build his boat. Then again, God’s too busy having fun at Evan’s expense for anything truly awful happen to his family, right? It isn’t until the 3rd act finale when a last minute plot twist offers up a flood of “some peril” (the MPAA’s words, not mine) and neatly ties up the plot threads. It is inoffensive, uninspired storytelling.

For being such an expensive movie, the effects are not all that impressive. Although that could be considered a creative criticism to lay at the fault of the director and not necessarily due to budgetary short cuts. The animals, which are mostly real, work well when they physically exist in the same space as the actors. However, in the many master shots, animals are often dodgily pasted together. (Which makes you wonder why they felt the need to include all these animals that, as it turns out, would not be in any danger of being killed anyways.) The flood, when it finally does arrive, looks photo-realistic but is not particularly memorable or exciting.


Couple the film’s main theme with the oh-so-many jokes about how silly literalist interpretations of the Bible are, and I can’t figure out if this film is grist for liberal atheist ‘coasters or a Trojan horse for bible beaters flirting with environmentalism. Or maybe it’s supposed to be both, which is why the studio paid all that money for it in the first place (and maybe why it flopped.)

I mildly enjoyed parts of Evan Almighty, but that’s part of the problem. It’s so slight, so mild, and it feels like so many other mega-movies that cast a wide demographic net, safe Hollywood sponge cake that most people will find something in it to like. This is especially true if you enjoy ark-building montages set to peppy music. There are 3 of them in this film! Speaking of music, the film has some cues that threaten to derail any built up goodwill. Namely, there’s a cover of The Beatles’ Revolution that makes me want to sue everyone involved with its conception, recording, production and release. And the film ends on a vintage C&C Music Factory hit seemingly because they couldn’t figure out a real way to end it.

God may look black, but he dances like a white man.

The Package

For a single disc version, there’s enough here for fans to dig. The extras include deleted scenes (many without effects,) outtakes, a bunch of short featurettes introduced by Steve Carrell that go into how certain aspects of the film were done (that ark does look impressive,) and lastly, a trivia game. The film transfer looks good for a modern release, and the packaging is standard for a basic edition. If I thought there was a special edition coming, I’d say hold off on buying this. But I don’t think that will be happening any time soon. As its stands, it’s a decent release and certainly good enough for me to bump up the final score a point from the film itself.

6.2 out of 10