Bruce Almighty (DVD 2003)
Jim Carrey returns to big comedy in a story about a man given God's powers. Plenty of laughs, but, alas, also a message. Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman co-star, the latter as God
Oh, glory be! After years of pursuing an Oscar, Jim Carrey has decided to go back to trying to make the world laugh. Admittedly, this won't sound like a great idea to everyone, but even those with a pathological hatred of Carrey's brand of comedy would agree that a return to his roots has to be better than another simpering sentimental drama along the lines of 2001's The Majestic.
Bruce Almighty is actually a lot more than a mere improvement on Frank Darabont's massive misfire. It's a simple tale. Carrey stars as Bruce Nolan, a television news reporter with a grudge against pretty much everything and everyone, except his girlfriend, Grace (Aniston). After a particularly bad day at the office, Bruce rails against God (Freeman, inspired casting) who responds by bestowing His powers upon Bruce and then tells him to get on with the business of running the universe for a day.
It's a situation ripe with comic possibilities, and after an awkward first 20 minutes where Carrey seems to be seeing whether his comedy pants still fit, the gags come pretty thick and fast. And while Aniston is lumbered with the same thankless role that fellow Friend Courtney Cox had in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Freeman proves that comedy is well within his range.
While Carrey's performance is fine (he gurns, he shouts, he overplays - his usual shtick), there are numerous references to his other films, a miscalculation as they simply leave you wishing you were watching those movies instead. The presence of experienced screen actors such as Freeman and Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia, Hard Eight) also works slightly against the leading man. The performances of these old hands prove the maxim that less can sometimes be more - a principle Carrey ignores here. br
Worst of all, however, is the fact that Bruce Almighty isn't content to be a comedy. No, it has been decided that we must learn something about life before we are allowed to leave the auditorium, which means our laughs come with a huge dose of saccharine. Of course, schmaltz has been part of the Jim Carrey cinema-going experience before. Here, director Shadyac - he's the guy who ladled syrup all over Patch Adams - isn't content to simply serve up sentiment, rather he seems to wants to tie state and the Almighty together. If you're one of those people who winces whenever anyone says "God bless America", skip the last reel and save your soul.
Far from heaven-sent, but while Bruce Almighty lacks the darkness of The Cable Guy and the consistency of Dumb & Dumber, Carrey is good value, and, provided you can stomach the sentiment, you'll be delighted to discover that the laughs haven't been rationed.