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Bruce Almighty (2003)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/2/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/1/2009

There are plenty of actors who make a certain "type" of film, and when you venture to the theater or the video store, you have a pretty good idea of what you are going to get. But, there are few actors like Jim Carrey when it comes to anticipating what a movie is going to deliver. When we see a Jim Carrey film (which is a comedy, not one of his departures into drama), we know that we are going to get lots of mugging, yelling, body contortions, and weird catch-phrases. In fact, the story can often take a back seat to Carrey's antics. That is certainly the case with Bruce Almighty.

Bruce Almighty introduces us to Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey), a TV news reporter in Buffalo, New York. Bruce wants to be an anchor, but he's saddled with doing human interest and "puff" pieces. He lives with his girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston), who is sort of a free-spirit, but Bruce often lets his brooding about his job come between them. (He's also not happy with the fact that their dog pees on the furniture.) When Bruce is passed-over for a promotion, he has an on-air breakdown and loses his job. This brings him to the end of his rope and he curses God. He then receives a message with a job offer. He arrives at the address to find an empty building and a janitor (Morgan Freeman). The man states that he is God and says that since Bruce thinks he can do better, he endows Bruce with all of his powers. Of course, Bruce thinks that the man is crazy and head on his way. He immediately realizes that he does have powers and begins to use them to his advantage. But, God appears to him again and asks Bruce why he's not helping others. This puts Bruce on a journey of self-discovery.

With Bruce Almighty we get two movies in one...or maybe three. First and foremost, this is a Jim Carrey vehicle. The idea of a man who suddenly becomes God and can do anything that he wants is the perfect role for Carrey. This is an actor who brings too much to the table in ordinary roles, so playing someone with limitless powers is tailor-made for him. He begins the film playing someone who is sort of goofy and as he gains more powers, he really lets go. So, this makes an overview of Bruce Almighty really simple. If you like "wild" Jim Carrey, then you will find something to like about this film. The only drawback here is that following the "success" of "All Righty Then" from Ace Ventura and "Sssmokin'!" from The Mask, Carrey tries to force "B-E-A-utiful" and "It's good" on us and both get sort of annoying after a while.

Carrey's talent do help to punch up the script. If nothing else, Director Tom Shadyac's audio commentary and "The Process of Jim" extra found on this release help to illustrate how Carrey's improvisational skills add something to nearly every scene in which he appears. One line here or there and more often, added physical humor, help to make the movie more interesting...or annoying, depending on how you feel about Carrey.

Outside of Jim Carrey being Jim Carrey, we get the tale of Bruce and his spiritual awakening. The problem is that the premise which gets Carrey ramped up to do his thing -- inheriting God's powers -- also drag the film down in the second half. What is an often silly romp turns into an overly preachy pseudo-drama by the third reel. There's nothing wrong with the movie wanting to have a message, but it begins to beat us over the head with it and the movie even seems to be apologizing for its sly nature from the first half. Just because Bruce wants to make amends for his behavior doesn't mean that this movie has to.

With Bruce Almighty, Carrey and Director Tom Shadyac clearly wanted to re-capture the magic that they created in Liar, Liar. The movie's have very similar tones, both use a supernatural plot to allow Carrey to cut loose, and both want to teach a lesson in the end. The difference is that Liar, Liar is able to maintain its momentum throughout. Bruce Almighty has some undeniably funny moments (especially the Niagara Falls scene), but the movie collapses under its own weight by the finale.

Bruce Almighty parts the red soup on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, but it does show slight grain throughout the film and grows more obvious at times. There are no notable defects from the source material. The image is a bit too bright, making some of the colors appear washed out. The level of depth and detail are acceptable, but overall, this is only an average Blu-ray transfer. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track delivers solid stereo effects, most notably in crowd or street scenes. The surround sound effects are nicely done, especially those which feature celestial sounds and the voices which inhabit Bruce’s head. The meteorite scene serves as the film’s best example of surround sound and subwoofer effects.

The Bruce Almighty Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tom Shadyac. This is a fairly good chat as Shadyac keeps things even-keeled and never gets too technical. This is a very viewer-friendly talk, as he discusses the actors, locations, and Carrey's improvisations. This commentary was taken from the original DVD release, so some of it is dated, most notably Shadyac's prediction that Catherine Bell is going to have a big movie career. In "The Process of Jim" (6 minutes), Shadyac discusses what it's like to work with Jim Carrey and how one never knows what he is going to do. Shadyac shares multiple takes from scenes to show how Carrey gives him choices. We get a 7 minute reel of OUTTAKES. The Disc contains 13 DELETED SCENES which run about 31 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary from Shadyac. Some of these scenes contain multiple moments which were cut from the film. We get some extended scenes, some alternate takes, and some all-new material. As one would expect, there is some Carrey improv here and some of it is quite funny.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long