Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be God? To be all powerful and all
knowing? To be able to make mountains out of molehills? It's hard to fathom such power
given to a mortal human being, but that is the premise behind "Bruce Almighty," a divine
comedy about a man who is bestowed with God's powers for one week. What would you do?
How would you behave? Would you make the world a better place? With the good-humored
antics of Jim Carrey and the direction of Tom Shaydac, also known for his work on "Liar,
Liar" and "Ace Ventura," "Bruce Almighty" is a pleasant, yet wonderfully hilarious and
Bruce Nolan is a news reporter for a local television station in Buffalo, New York. His
focus is on human interest stories, stories that are whimsical in nature, but not as
significant as headline news where Bruce would like to be. At home, he is nurtured by
Grace, a daycare center worker capable of finding happiness in the simplest of things.
The two are not married, but share an apartment and a dog with an uncontrollable bladder.
Despite a comfortable life, Bruce is discontented. His dream is to become a news anchor
alongside Susan Ortega and after the current news anchor retires, he sees his big chance
in front of him.
But some dreams were not meant to be. After learning that he was passed over for the promotion to
news anchor by a fellow colleague, Bruce explodes into a fit of rage. In doing so, he loses
his own job, is randomly beaten for trying to help a homeless man, and gets involved in a car
accident. When it would seem like nothing else could get worse, Bruce accuses God for making
his life miserable. And God responds. Bruce is called in front of God and is offered the
chance of a lifetime - to trade places with God for a week to see if he can do a better job.
Unsure of his newly acquired powers, Bruce experiments. He potty trains his dog, spices up
his sex life, and begins to receive recognition for his uncanny ability to be in the right
place at the right time when covering news stories.
Yet, as we learned in another summer blockbuster: With great power comes great
responsibility. Along with his newfound almighty power, Bruce must also help
those who are in need, he must attempt to make the world a better place, and most
importantly, he must respond to the millions and millions of prayers that are
submitted every daily. In doing so, Bruce gains an appreciation for God but his
selfishness and odd behavior have further distanced him from Grace. Unable to
change her free will with his powers, Bruce rediscovers the important things in
life, finds his inner self, and tries to win back the affection of his one true
Directed by Tom Shadyac, known for his work with other comediennes like Robin Williams and
Eddie Murphy, "Bruce Almighty" offers an upbeat mix of comedy and melodrama. It's not
outrageously over the top or listless; instead, it has just the right mix. It's also very
similar to one of Shadyac's previous works, also with Carrey, entitled "Liar, Liar." But
unlike 'Liar' which was foremost a maudlin piece with comedy mixed in, 'Almighty is
predominantly a comedy with tender moments mixed in. The two are related because each
embraces the human spirit.
Whether detailing a hard working attorney who can't make time for his son or a humorous news
reporter who is having a mid-life crisis, these films have characters we can relate to. Sure,
the situations they are placed in are extreme and somewhat supernatural, but they are
situations that speak to all forms of humanity, to everyone. Such was the work of Frank
Capra, one of Hollywood's most respected directors, and one of the most successful directors
in the fantasy-comedy genre. And this film knows its place. In fact, it has a fitting
tribute to Capra in a scene in which Bruce lassos the moon and re-arranges the skylight for
Grace. "I'll lasso the moon for you, Mary" says George Bailey and we are instantly
transported to the exact scene on television in "It's a Wonderful Life."
"Bruce Almighty" is a return to form for Jim Carrey, who has spent the last few
years recovering from the box office flop known as "The Majestic." Desperate to
be taken seriously as a dramatic actor, Carrey has made several forays into the
dramatic world, but each has failed to live up to the expectations set forth in
his brilliant portrayal of Truman Burbank in the "The Truman Show." Multitalented
and underrated, Carrey is a terrific actor, but more importantly, he is a comic
genius. With his trademark, rubber-like facial expressions and goofy posturing,
Carrey can get a laugh without saying a word. And it's hard to imagine anyone
else who would have as much fun as Carrey at playing God. He blows up skirts and
fire hydrants, parts traffic jams and a bowl full of soup, and exacts revenge on
his co-workers in B-E-A-utiful ways.
In the film, God tells Bruce that he gave him a spark and that that was what made
him special - the ability to make people laugh. Ironically, that is a reflection
of Jim Carrey himself. Comedy is what Jim does best and this is certainly Carrey
at his best. Along for the ride are Jennifer Anniston and Morgan Freeman.
Following her highly acclaimed performance as Justine Last in "The Good Girl,"
Jennifer Anniston has her big, big screen debut in this one and manages to stay
afloat with Carrey. No doubt, there will be larger, leading roles for her in the
future. But this one is a mild role, with little deviation from her comedic
portrayal of Rachel on "Friends." Meanwhile, Freeman is the perfect complement
to Carrey, cautiously optimistic and patient. Not generally known for his comedic
undertakings, he portrays the role of God with such charm and wit that he seems
like a natural.
"Bruce Almighty" is at times, a slapstick comedy and at times, a sentimental
drama. It is laugh out loud funny and yet, heartfelt. In Ecclesiastes 3:11,
God sets "eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end." But in this film, we get a sense of that tremendous
responsibility that God possesses along with the all-encompassing power. It's
not easy being God. And even more important, it's not easy being God when
you're really only human.