Thursday, July 12, 2007

You want movie reviews? We got movie reviews!

Blintzkrieg here...

Just been forwarded a movie review from a CJN freelancer. Have a look at what our friend Mitchell thinks about this recent release.

Warning... spoilers aplenty.


175 mins

Reviewed by: Mitchell Schnurbach


The key to success for high concept comedies are reactions. The lead character needs to react to the absurd circumstance that he has been placed into as any one of us would react, and the supporting players need to react to the strange occurrences happening around them in much the same fashion. It is on this level that Evan Almighty, the sequel to the 2003 smash, Bruce Almighty, fails. Practically every reaction to every situation is handled all wrong, as a result the movie just isn't funny.

Take the running gag of Evan Baxter's rapidly protruding beard. In the span of about a week he goes from looking like Mr clean cut GQ man , to ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, to the lumberjack from the Kellogg's Raisin Bran commercials, to a member of ZZ Top, to principal Dumbledore. A moderately amusing gag on its own. But in order to be truly successful, the people that he sees everyday need to react in a normal human fashion. Instead they all think he has gone loco. Every character in the movie is under the impression that he made the choice to grow a beard, with not even one person realizing that what is happening is literally impossible. So instead of laughing at Evan's misfortune, we shake our heads in disbelief at how dumb these people are (or the screenwriters). A similar running beard gag was used in the summer hit Knocked Up, yet in that movie it worked to perfection because the characters understood what was going on and reacted accordingly.

Evan Almighty is essentially a modern day reworking of the Noah's Ark story we all remember well from Hebrew class. It begins with Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) leaving his post as a Buffalo newscaster to take his seat as a newly elected congressman in Washington. In the first movie, Evan went bananas on screen and started babbling incoherently to a live television audience as a result of shenanigans pulled by Jim Carrey's Bruce. This meltdown has probably been on every subsequent episode of NBC's Most Outrageous TV Moments, but the people of Buffalo still sent him to Congress.

Pretty soon after arriving with his family in their new house in suburban Virginia, Evan starts receiving mysterious packages filled with biblical-era building tools. Animals start taking a liking to him as well. He thinks nothing of it until God (Morgan Freeman) pays him a visit and warns him of an impending flood. God seems to focus all his attention on people from Buffalo in the Almighty movies. I guess Buffalo is the Jerusalem of the new world. Morgan Freeman seems extremely bored in the part. God asks Evan to build an ark to save him and his family from the flood. In biblical times, God promised Noah that he would never again "curse the ground of man." I guess God either has a short memory or changed his mind. Of course Evan doesn't believe he's in the presence of God and merely scoffs at the idea.

God is not the God we remember from the bible, either. This God convinces people of his presence by annoying them. He has birds follow Evan around pooping on him and interrupting business meetings, he appears in the back seat of Evan's car out of nowhere almost causing an accident, he makes everything in Evan's life have a connotation with the number 614 which is the passage of the bible where Noah is commanded to build the ark, etc, etc. This is about as hilarious as it sounds.

Eventually Evan believes that he has indeed been communicating with God and begins his quest to build the ark along with his three teenage sons. Why do his teenage sons agree to devote all their free time to building an ark in the backyard with their father? Is it because they notice that dad is inexplicably growing a beard at a rate of five inches per day, or that he is incapable of removing his biblical robe that magically showed up? Perhaps it is because animals from all continents have begun randomly showing up in pairs exclusively on their property? Nope. All that goes practically unnoticed. But you see, the kids are happy that dad wants to spend time with them after cancelling their hiking trip the week before. I'd love to take a survey of 15 year old boys who have had scheduled hiking trips with their dads cancelled, and see what percentage of them are actually upset by this development. This is just another in a long line of unnatural reactions from supporting characters. Even God wasn't reacting properly in this movie! Why does he not allow Evan to remove the long flowing robe during the entire Ark building process? If Noah had access to a pair of Levis and some old Converse sneakers, I don't think God would have cared.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of some land use bill that is essentially in the movie in order to introduce a senior senator (John Goodman) as the evil antagonist trying to put a stop to Evan's ark building. Goodman is absolutely wasted in a nothing role.
And to cap off this disaster, the movie features one of those endings that render the entire movie useless. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that God could have just commanded Evan to move instead of building an ark and the end result would have been exactly the same. Eventually the flood does arrive and we are treated to one of the best special effects sequences ever seen in a comedy. Although one wonders exactly how the flood was contained to only one main street while all the astonished pedestrians on the side streets didn't even get wet.

The real shame of this movie is that some of Hollywood's best comedic actors are present. Besides Steve Carell, this movie features Wanda Sykes, Jonah Hill, and the aforementioned John Goodman in supporting roles. All of these actors are usually able to elevate any part above a poor screenplay. Hill transformed Accepted from a typical teenage comedy to one of the funniest movies of 2006, and Goodman's classic work in The Big Lebowski is one of the most criminally underrated performances in movie history. Unfortunately nothing short of divine intervention could have saved this dreadful movie.

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