DVD Release Date:  October 9, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: June 22, 2007
Rating: PG (for mild rude humor and some peril)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: Tom Shadyac
Actors: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman, Lauren Graham, John Michael Higgins, Wanda Sykes, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon

The story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis is the story of God’s judgment on humankind for its wickedness. With such stories having fallen out of favor with 21st-century audiences, Tom Shadyac, a Catholic filmmaker who has directed some of the most successful comedies of recent times (Bruce Almighty, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Nutty Professor) has, with screenwriter Steve Oedekerk (Barnyard, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist), fashioned the Noah story into something much more modern—a tale about family togetherness and random acts of kindness.

Or, in the words of God, as played by Morgan Freeman in the movie, it’s a story about believing in each other.

One’s tolerance for such reinterpretations will largely shape one’s reaction to Evan Almighty, a sequel to Shadyac’s Jim Carrey vehicle, Bruce Almighty. Here, Carrey’s Bruce is replaced by Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), the newscaster from the earlier film who arguably gave that film’s best comic performance.

Carell has since become a major star himself, thanks to last year’s breakout hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, this year’s Oscar contender, Little Miss Sunshine, and his role on the brilliant NBC sitcom, The Office. But unlike those envelope-pushing performances and entertainments, Carell’s role in Evan Almighty is gentle and family friendly, matching the film around him.

The film opens with Baxter now living in Northern Virginia, just outside the nation’s capital, where he works as a recently elected congressman. Having campaigned on a promise to change the world, Baxter is flattered by the efforts of Congressman Long (John Goodman) to have him co-sponsor the veteran politician’s latest bill. By uniting with Long, Baxter believes God is answering his prayer to fulfill the pledge he made to his constituents.

Encouraging him are his steadfast wife (Lauren Graham), a groveling aide (Jonah Hill), and Baxter’s chief of staff (John Michael Higgins).

God, however, has other plans for the congressman. Deliveries of lumber start arriving, unexplained, at Baxter’s house, and the congressman’s alarm keeps waking him repeatedly at 6:14 a.m.

When animals—two by two, of course—begin to follow Baxter around the house, and onto the streets of Washington, D.C., the congressman turns to his Bible—Genesis 6:14, to be exact, where he finds a message that fits his strange circumstances: “So make yourself an ark of . . . wood.”

Baxter’s wife and kids, and a smart-mouthed office assistant (Wanda Sykes), are skeptical of Evan’s sudden changes, but with God providing the Noah-like attire and facial hair, Evan embraces the Genesis verse as his own personal calling.
 
Of course, once the potentially embarrassing reality becomes public, Evan’s faith will be severely tested. Will he risk his job and reputation on a spectacle that attracts only mocking derision?

Christians familiar with the Bible will identify with Evan’s struggle to publicly follow God’s leading in the face of ridicule from others—“Suppose some of you think you are wise by the standards of the world. Then you should become a ‘fool’ so that you can become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). However, those familiar with the purpose of the Noah account might be put off by the movie’s modern reinterpretation of that story. 

But so much for the theology. What about the humor? Does Evan Almighty deliver laughs?

It does. Not the side-clutching, gut-busting guffaws of the best comedies, but a gentle amusement, with several chuckles along the way. It’s a summer blockbuster for the under-10 set, as well as teens and adults.

But check your cynicism at the door. In an era where both political parties are polling at historic lows with the American electorate, Evan Almighty makes the case that idealism can still triumph, and that some politicians will risk public disapproval and professional consequences for doing the right thing—a sadly antiquated notion these days.

AUDIENCE: School-age children and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; some crude terms and references to animal anatomy.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: None, but a few jokey references, such as “Are you shooting up Rogaine?”
  • Sex/Nudity: Husband and wife are pictured in bed, talking; Evan walks out of his house naked without realizing it, but the nakedness is not shown
  • Violence: Comic moments, such as a dog biting a man in the crotch, construction accidents during the building of the ark, and quite a few bird droppings.
  • Prayer/Faith: Evan’s wife prays for the family to be closer, but Evan, a man of little faith, asks for God’s help to change the world.
  • Environmentalism: Though not preachy, the film has a mild pro-environment message that distorts the biblical idea of man’s dominion over creation.

Click here to watch the Evan Almighty trailer.