Bruce Almighty

2003, Movie, PG-13, 94 mins

Review

BRUCE ALMIGHTY
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Are you there God? It's me, Moviegoer. Please, why do movies like this happen? Jim Carrey plays a man granted omnipotence — though clearly not omniscience — by a Supreme Being who's grown tired of his constant whining. It's the kind of wonderful, what-if fantasy premise that has given us IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), OH, GOD! (1977) and other films and TV shows in which an ordinary guy has a close encounter with a fun-lovin' Lord. But while it seems a heavenly idea to give the prodigiously talented and always inventive Carrey a role as inherently boundless as that of the Genie in ALADDIN (1992) or Carrey's own title character in THE MASK (1994), the mega-star has fallen into the same trap that has snared so many hugely successful comedians who now believe that everything they do or say is funny. Bruce Nolan (Carrey) is a disgruntled, lighter-side-of-the-news reporter for Buffalo's WKBW Eyewitness News who will stoop so low as to tell his interview subjects exactly what to say. Extraordinarily self-absorbed and infantile, Nolan is so insensitive to his live-in girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) and so unprofessional at his job that it's hard to see how he holds on to either — and it's nearly impossible to care. Incensed after a smug colleague (Steve Carell of The Daily Show) is chosen for the co-anchor position Nolan coveted, he goes ballistic during a live report and is summarily fired. Out of the blue and with no organic set-up, Nolan begins blaming the Almighty for his troubles, leading God (Morgan Freeman) to teach Nolan a lesson of the if-you-think-it's-so-easy-then-you-do-it variety. God bequeaths His power to Nolan (or clones it, actually, since He Himself remains in control) and tells him that the job and all its divine perks are now his. It's a classic fantasy scenario, overflowing with creative possibilities, but Carrey's Nolan isn't charmingly misguided or comically loathsome enough to deserve the lesson; he's just a big, inconsequential crybaby. None of this would have mattered if Nolan's use and abuse of God's powers illuminated an evolving hero a la the similarly themed GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) in which Bill Murray's character is doomed to relive the same day several times over. He starts out with the same payback fantasies as Nolan, but goes through an ingeniously original and utterly logical character overhaul. Unfortunately, such potential is wasted here in what amounts to a sour celebration of mean-spiritedness with an unconvincing moment of redemption tacked onto the end. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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