Bruce Almighty

While not the laugh factory that was “Liar! Lair!,” Jim Carrey’s latest comedy “Bruce Almighty” does manufacture enough humor and heart to produce a consumer friendly product. After having flexed his dramatic muscle in such under-appreciated films as “The Majestic” and “Man on the Moon,” Carrey is back on terra firma, and “Bruce Almighty” should find his collection plate full.


As the modern day Jerry Lewis, Carrey has created a lucrative career manipulating his rubbery face and talking out his butt. While Carrey occasionally mugs in “Bruce Almighty,” the butt jokes have been left to his co-stars, leaving the star more time to create a loveable and endearing character whose faith in God is tested after a string of personal failures.

Working under the guidance of director and frequent collaborator Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar! Liar!) and from a script co-written by Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), Carrey is perfect as second string Buffalo television reporter Bruce Nolan, whose assignments include covering the world’s largest cookie. Fearful that his fluff pieces won’t get him an upcoming anchor position, Bruce convinces the station manager (Philip Baker Hall) to give him an important live assignment.

Just moments before he goes live, Bruce learns that his rival has gotten the job, and loses it on the air. Out of work, out of patience, and out of his mind, Bruce blames God, claiming he could do a better job. As someone who never heard the expression be careful what you wish for, Bruce is granted a personal one on one with God (Morgan Freeman), who gives Bruce all his powers and the responsibilities that come with them.

Like most people given everything they ever wanted, Bruce doesn’t use his newfound powers to fix the world’s problems, but fix his own life. He turns himself into a sexual animal, much to the delight of his live-in girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston), sabotages his former on-air rival, parts traffic, gets even with a gang of bangers (even teaching the anal retentive leader a tough lesson in evolution), and secures personal notoriety.

All the while, the world’s collective prayers go unanswered, leading to a backlog that Bruce erases with an all encompassing yes, unaware of the consequences of giving everyone everything they always wanted. There’s a message to be learned in “Bruce Almighty,” one that writers Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Oedekerk convey without nailing the audience to a cross. “Bruce Almighty” is a film about faith, not religion, which makes this non-denominational comedy accessible to anyone looking for a film with both laughs and heart.

Carrey is quite charming as Bruce, channeling equal amounts of outrageous behavior and reflective sensitivity. When his own personal corner of the world starts going to hell, we know Bruce will eventually conquer his foolhardiness, and Carrey makes that expected transition all the more welcome. Jennifer Aniston holds her own as the aptly named Grace, a women so good and pure when Bruce breaks her heart he breaks our heart. We want to reach out and let her know that everything will end up okay.

Freeman’s God is noble, someone with a sense of humor whose few, simple words speak volumes. Freeman brings real authority to God’s presence. Steve Carell is hilarious as the smug anchor who is the target of Bruce’s wrath, while one of my personal favorites, Lisa Ann Walter (“The Parent Trap”) plays Grace’s sister as the voice of common sense.

Director Shadyac sets “Bruce Almighty” in a bright and cheery world that serves as the perfect backdrop for Bruce’s dreary existence. The Buffalo locations have a dreamlike quality to them, as if to suggest that we’re not dealing with the real world, just Bruce’s little universe. Dean Semler’s cinematography and John Debney’s sprite score never betray that reality. You won’t be damned for not seeing “Bruce Almighty,” but it’s much better than some of the hellish comedies that have singed the nation’s screens recently.

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BRUCE ALMIGHTY

Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Steve Carell. Directed by Tom Shadyac. 100 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

LARSEN RATING: $7.00



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