"Bruce Almighty" - Movie Review
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- 2003 22 May
Rating: PG -13 (for language, sexual content and some crude humor)
Release Date: May 23, 2003
Actors: Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter, Steven Carell, Nora Dunn, Eddie Jemison, Sally Kirkland
Director: Tom Shadyac
Special Notes: Many are probably wondering, "If Jim Carrey made a movie where he plays God, does that mean he's a Christian or believes in God?" Carrey's answers speak for themselves. "I've gone multi-denominational. I've studied a lot of different things, and basically I don't know what God is but I know that He's at least an energy that rules all and walks the earth, and I really think that there are laws ... and maybe they are within ourselves." Carrey believes most people have moments, as his character does, when they rant and rail at God and ask: "Why, why are you doing this to me?" So he sees nothing wrong with the scene in which Bruce verbally assaults his Maker. "I don't think you can know God unless you're passionate about God. So you're either screaming at Him or you're enraptured at the idea of being around Him and feeling Him in your life."
Plot: Bruce Nolan (Carrey) is a "human interest" television reporter in Buffalo, New York who's discontented with almost everything in his life. Although he's popular with the local folk and is dearly loved by his girlfriend Grace (Aniston), he still is unhappy with the direction his life is taking. At the end of the worst day in his life, Bruce angrily rages against God and lets Him know how disappointed he is in Him. God responds by appearing in human form (Freeman) and listens to the complaints Bruce has against Him. He decides to empower Bruce with His divine powers for a limited time (and only in His immediate vicinity), so that Bruce can have a better understanding and appreciation for just how big God's "job" really is. Soon the pressures of the job force Bruce to take a look at his own life and examine what kind of person he truly is before it's too late.
Good: Shadyac and Carrey have done it again! Shadyac ("Ace Ventura: Pet Detective", "Liar, Liar") has created a thought-provoking comedy that suggests the Almighty has a sense of humor and Carrey definitely has a God-given ability to make people laugh. This is a role made in heaven for Carrey, using his unique comedic physical style of comedy and mixing it with serious issues -- namely a man coming to terms with his own belief (and disbelief) in God. Carrey looks like he had a blast playing this part (who wouldn't) and enjoyed working with the talented cast. Anniston is perfect at playing the jilted girlfriend who has issues with Bruce about marriage and commitment (notice her character's name is Grace). Freeman is excellent in his portrayal of God, presenting Him in a very cool, calm and classy way as only this talented actor can do. Shadyac's decision to cast the black actor in the role of God is not only thought-provoking but typical of the director's sense of humor and style. He knew his choice of making God black would confront many people's assumptions about God and make folks think about the fact that God is not a "color". There are some hilarious scenes with Bruce doing amazing things with God-like powers (walking on water, creating an expensive car, making soup in his bowl part like the Red Sea, looking into a mirror and hearing/seeing himself as Clint Eastwood) and scenes with him making things happen to others around him (Grace wakes up with a bigger chest, a fellow anchorman [Carell] flubs his lines and can't speak, a gang of tough thugs beating up on a man are humiliated by his providential powers, his dog learns how to use the toilet) that create some very funny moments in the story. (By the way; the scene with Carrey and Steve Carell alone is worth the price of a ticket! I can't remember laughing as hard as I did at that one scene; in fact, everyone in the audience laughed so hard you could barely hear the lines -- it's THAT funny!) But there are other scenes that hit a more serious note dealing with Bruce's attitude towards his fellow man and then his own selfishness. Bruce is mad at God and wants to blame God for everything bad that's happening to him in his life (sound familiar?). Slowly Bruce begins to focus on other people and their needs instead of his own selfish wants and desires and that's when we see changes take place and a true repentance turn everything around. There are themes of redemption, forgiveness, a spiritual awakening, a newfound love for mankind, friends and professional peers, and an overall appreciation for just how hard God's job really is. There's a dramatic scene in the end where Bruce cries out to God and asks Him to take back His powers and then offers a sacrifice so that Grace can be happy. It's a touching scene that will no doubt make a lot of people think about their own lives and where they are spiritually. In the end, the overall message of the movie is clearly spiritual and thought-provoking. Bruce Nolan discovers his true nature and that none of us can take the place of God. None of us have the kind of love, patience and forgiveness that only God can provide. And perhaps the most profound message that God delivers to Bruce (and the story ends up proving) is that God wants what's best for all who believe in Him. But we all have choices to make, and God won't force anyone who won't turn to Him first and simply ask.
Bad: This is a Jim Carrey movie that kids will obviously want to see. However, because this PG-13 comedy skews to an adult audience with mature situations and material, this prevents me from suggesting it as a "kid friendly" or "family friendly" movie. And I'll be frank. There are elements in this movie that will probably offend many parents and even some adults without children: crude language, rude behavior, sexually suggestive dialogue and the fact that Grace lives with Bruce before they're married. But think about it … how can you show a character going through a spiritual transformation and changes in his life (and behavior) if you don't show the sinful side of him first? It's those very things that God exposes to Bruce that in the end, Bruce repents for and ends up changing. That's why I'm making the point that even though there are funny scenes and a very humorous side to this story, there is a serious side with a deeper message. So it's more of a movie for mature teens to adults.
Bottom Line: Shadyac takes a closer look at questions people ask about God and mixes it with a touch of irreverent humor only Carrey can deliver. The result is a story people can relate to in a humorous way. I dare say most of us have at least thought about "playing God" at one time or another and that's the appeal to this movie. This will be great fodder for the water cooler at work and an easy opener for discussion. Ask your friends if they were God, what's the first thing they would do. Pursuing the "why" of their answers will be your challenge, but that's what Shadyac hopes will happen. I think it's important to note that Shadyac is a Christian and considers movies his way and opportunity of "witnessing" to people. The underlying message of this movie is intended to make people think. So although you may not approve of all the questionable elements that are in this movie or support the way the story is told, this movie does have the potential to reach people who would never step inside a church, listen to Christian radio or watch Christian television. This is a movie that offers moments of laughter and an entertaining story, but it will leave you thinking about the spiritual elements long after you've left the theater. And that's the beauty of this story. Imagine going to a Jim Carrey movie to get a good laugh and walking away with a life-changing message!