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Evan Almighty (2007)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 10/9/2007

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

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/10/2007

The idea of a sequel is pretty simple -- it's the continuation of a story or idea in a completely new story. But, what constitutes a worthy or necessary sequel is a different matter entirely. Some stories end with a cliffhanger or just when we've gotten to know the characters, so there is a natural inclination to want to know what happens next. But, other stories have a satisfying and closed ending, and creating a sequel to those stories can take either a great deal of imagination or a great leap of faith by the audience. Evan Almighty is a sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty. And although it shares two characters and a central idea with the first movie, this sequel goes off in a slightly new direction.

Steve Carrell stars in Evan Almighty as Evan Baxter, a Buffalo, New York news anchor who has just been elected to congress. So, Evan moves with his wife, Joan (Lauren Graham) and their three sons, Dylan (Johnny Simmons), Jordan (Graham Phillips), and Ryan (Jimmy Bennett) to a suburb of Washington, D.C. There, they begin their lives in a fancy new house. Evan is excited about his job as a congressman, as he's met by his staff, Marty (John Michael Higgins) and Rita (Wanda Sykes). He is also thrilled to learn that senior congressman Chuck Long (John Goodman) has invited Evan to co-sponsor a bill. Yes, things are looking up for Evan Baxter.

And then, some weird things begin to happen. Large orders of lumber, which Evan didn't order, are delivered to the Baxter house. A man claiming to be God (Morgan Freeman) appears to Evan and tells him to build an ark, as a flood is coming. Of course, Evan laughs this off, but soon he is confronted by signs that he can't ignore. He is constantly followed by animals, he sprouts a beard that grows back as soon as he shaves it, and the number 614 (referencing Genesis 6.14 from the Bible) is seen everywhere. Unable to say no any longer, Evan gives in and begins to build the ark. Will his family, colleagues, and neighbors accept this change, or will they think him mad?

Bruce Almighty was a mediocre comedy which got by mainly on the presence of Jim Carrey. It concerned a man who questioned God and was allowed to assume God's powers. In that film, Evan Baxter was one of Bruce's co-workers and, as I remember the film, he was an obnoxious jerk. The movie told its story and had a nicely wrapped ending. So, why the sequel...a very loose sequel, I might add. That question remains unanswered, but taking a semi-minor character from a movie and adding one of the biggest budgets of all time seems like a huge risk. Of course, questioning the reasoning behind Evan Almighty is almost a moot point, as the film can easily stand on its own.

The problem is that Evan Almighty isn't a very good movie. As noted above, I remember Evan Baxter being a blow-hard in Bruce Almighty, but from the outset, he's portrayed as being a solid family-man in the sequel. Why the change? Obviously, it was to make the character more palatable. (Check out the deleted scenes on the DVD for more of an insight into this.) This hiccup may be the only wrinkle from the first to second film, but there are plenty of things which are uneven in Evan Almighty. The biggest flaw with the film is that it simply isn't funny. I like Steve Carrell and I've found him humorous in other things, but when a comedian who's known for slyly silly comedy resorts to pratfalls, something has gone horribly wrong. There comedy humor doesn't try to be smart, it all comes from a physical place. The only thing in the movie which made me laugh was Wanda Sykes, who's smartass comments made her appear to be in another movie.

When I asked a friend what she thought of Evan Almighty, she replied, "It's too conservative for liberals and too liberal for conservatives." And she truly hit the nail on the head. The film presents the idea of God and his task in a manner that only a true zealot would find sacrilegious. The movie contains no profanity or violence. But, the film does have a very pro-environment message and it presents greedy corporate politicians in a bad light. The ideals in the film clash in a way which may not please anyone. And in their effort to make a squeaky-clean family film, the makers of Evan Almighty have created a very vanilla and sterile movie. Aside from the cute animals, I don’t think that children would have any urge to see it, nor would they understand some of the themes. I get the feeling that Universal was banking on church groups flooding the theaters. If I were in a church group, A) I’d have to put on some pants, and B) I’d be offended that this bland film was aimed at me.

At the end of the day, Evan Almighty is a disappointment because of the talent and resources involved in this lackluster film. Tom Shadyac is usually very good at getting funny performances out of funny people. The cast is full of familiar faces (although, I don’t like John Goodman as a villain). The special effects by ILM are impressive. The script has one very clever twist, although the revelation of the symbolism of the ark at the end will either have you teary-eyed or rolling your eyes. But, all of this adds up to a rather routine movie. Evan Almighty can’t be considered the high-water mark in the careers of anyone involved.

Evan Almighty comes two by two to DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, as it shows no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the greens and blues. However, the picture is somewhat soft and lacking in detail in some scenes. I also spotted some edge enhancement. Overall, not a bad transfer, but not top-notch. However, the DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is top-notch. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get an excellent amount of stereo and surround sound effects here. The sounds of the various animals, and of course, the flood, fill the speakers. There is also a nice use of bass response, most notably during the finale.

The Evan Almighty contains an odd assortment of extras. The disc has 13 DELETED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. At least two of these scenes show Evan being greedy and ignorant -- ideas which would have made his conversion more interesting. There is also a great Wanda Sykes scene. This is followed by 3 minutes of OUTTAKES. “The Ark-itects of Noah’s Ark” (7 minutes) focusing on the building of the ark and the decision to use a full-scale ark in the movie. Special effects makeup artist David Anderson discusses Evan’s hair and beard effects in “Becoming Noah” (6 minutes). We get some behind-the-scene hi-jinks from Carrell in “Steve Carrell Unplugged” (3 minutes). “Animals on Set Two by Two” (13 minutes) profiles the animal handlers and informs us that Evan Almighty has the most animals ever in a movie. “The Almighty Green Set” (5 minutes) focusing on environmentally friendly atmosphere on the set and the fact that Tom Shadyac bought bikes for everyone. Cast members share their notions of “Acts of Random Kindness” (90 seconds). The animal and flood effects are examined in “A Flood of Visual Effects” (7 minutes.) And “Casting Call: Serengeti” (3 minutes) is a fake featurette showing how the animals were cast for the film.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long