He's Got the Power
"There's nothing wrong with being funny," Jennifer Aniston's character tells Jim Carrey's disillusioned TV reporter in Bruce Almighty. Perhaps this bit of dialogue was added as an apology of sorts to Carrey's fans for his previous movie, The Majestic, in which he played a dramatic role -- brilliantly, in my opinion. It's a shame so many people have trouble accepting this multi-talented actor in anything except comedy. Carrey gets the chance to shine in funny and serious scenes as he cavorts through Bruce Almighty -- and he's got the power to do both, although this movie is not one of his best.
It's risky business to combine humor and religious themes in a movie. Remember Dear God and Keeping the Faith? Fortunately, Bruce Almighty emerges as a more successful effort, primarily because of Carrey's charisma and hilarious antics. When the television newsman he portrays receives all of God's (Morgan Freeman) powers while the Big Guy goes on vacation, Carrey has a great time doing such silly things as parting the liquid in a bowl of tomato soup like it was the Red Sea, enlarging his girl friend's (Aniston) breasts, and turning his dog into a model canine who not only uses the toilet but flushes and puts down the seat when he's finished. (Don't scoff. Anyone who's ever had a pet that's hard to housebreak would be tempted to use miraculous powers this way, too.)
When Carrey stops thinking only of himself and tries to organize a way of answering prayers, the movie becomes more dramatic. His character's pain -- resulting from all the voices in his head -- seems totally real because of Carrey's pensive looks and agonizing body language. And the depth of feeling over loss of his girl friend's love shows in his sad eyes.
Director Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar) calls Carrey the hardest worker in show business. "Everybody who works with Jim knows that," he says. "He has an extraordinary ethic, and a constant striving to make things better. I love to see Jim let go and watch things hit him, like a gift. And when it comes, it's a joy to watch."
I agree, but, unfortunately, Bruce Almighty includes some Carrey scenes that are not a joy to see. Watching him carry a dog as it urinates all over an apartment is one. His insulting comments to an elderly women while falling apart during a live interview segment is another. And his angst at the beginning of the film seems overdone to me.
Definitely not overdone is Freeman's (High Crimes) contribution to this movie as a caring and humorous God. Whether wearing workmen's coveralls or a stunning white suit, he's heavenly. And that deep, velvety voice! Just how I imagine the Almighty would sound.
Aniston (Rock Star) is fine, too. She always pulls me into her performances and makes me root for her. Steven Carell (from TV's "The Daily Show") excels as Carrey's rival newsman. He projects just the right amount of smugness and malicious ambition.
While certainly not perfect, Bruce Almighty is an entertaining modern day parable with a sense of humor -- one that emphasizes the importance of free will, love, and selflessness. Its conclusion? God is in each one of us.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for language, sexual content, and some crude humor.)