It is virtually in name only that Evan Almighty is a sequel to the 2003 Jim Carey comedy Bruce Almighty. While Morgan Freeman returns in his role of God and Steve Carell’s obnoxious Evan Baxter takes center stage, the film’s tone is remarkably different from the earlier film. However, whereas Carey’s Bruce was visited by God and vested with His powers, here He wants news anchor-turned-freshman congressman Evan to build an ark.
Needless to say, Evan is resistant to the idea at first, but God can be persistent. Evan finds himself being followed by pairs of animals and, in an idea lifted from the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies, starts growing long hair and an unshaveable beard, slowly metamorphosing into the Biblical image of Noah. Carell does a good job transitioning through the broad comedy of a disbelieving Evan to the man of faith who continues building an ark even in the face of his wife questioning his sanity. Evan’s good faith is of course rewarded, and as the film movers towards its conclusion, neatly tying up a subplot about a Congressional bill that would commercialize Federal Parks land and teaching all a heartwarming lesson.
But for all the film’s good intents, or perhaps because of them, the script itself is something of a mish-mash. The first half contains the bulk of the film’s laughs as Evan reacts to God’s appearance in his life. However, once Evan commits himself to the boat building, comedy is traded for sentimentality. The story also becomes increasingly predictable by this point and if you haven’t figured out how things are going to play out, then you just aren’t paying attention.
The screenplay, by Bruce Almighty scribe Steve Oedekerk, also throws logic out the window whenever it proves inconvenient for the advancement of the plot. Evan’s wife (Lauren Graham) blithely accepts the fact that overnight her husband has grown a full beard, as do his office staff, in regards to the numerous animals that suddenly start following Evan around. Unfortunately, the film and its flaws make it hard to accept as well constructed entertainment.