Bruce Almighty is a schizophrenic movie. Slapstick welded to fluffy philosophy, it blends art house pretensions with Chicken Soup for the Soul into a typical summer movie packing enough box-office punch to beat the incredibly hyped Matrix: Reloaded. The high profile cast -- Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman -- is probably pulling in as many viewers as the ubiquitous trailers and interesting premise: ordinary schlub gets the powers of God.
Carrey plays Bruce, who is your usual lower-level TV field reporter covering the quirkier side of life in Buffalo. Megalomaniac Bruce and his sweet preschool teacher girlfriend, Grace (Aniston), have a comfortable life, but Bruce wants more: to be the anchor. After a lot of bitching and moaning from Bruce, God (Freeman) gifts him with divine powers. Bruce promptly gives his girlfriend bigger breasts and himself the fancy chair at the news desk. After his ego writes checks even his newfound powers can't cash, Bruce eventually learns that being a deity isn't all its cracked up to be, and that maybe being just himself is enough.
done spectacularly (physical comedy à la "In Living Color"), and what he has done with mixed results (arty, humanistic comedy à la The Truman Show). Carrey's pratfalls and mugs take place in generic offices and alleyways, while God inhabits an all-white office building and paces the waters of Lake Ontario. Storywise, it's the same mishmash, swinging wildly from navel-gazing to nose-picking.
Carrey is tolerably good at this sort of stuff, and has gotten better-looking with age. Even though the movie references Ace Ventura and earlier Carrey flicks, old Fire Marshal Bill can pull off the newscaster shenanigans. Aniston is gamely swept up, playing a paper thin and underwritten riff on her character in Office Space. Steven Carell of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart highlights the underused supporting cast, his anchor-slick hair and vocal cords in perfect condition. Catherine Bell is a throwaway temptress who is given one good joke: the token "Latina" newscaster , she rolls her R's with gusto but is otherwise unaccented. And here comes a sentence as pretentious as this film's concept: Morgan Freeman is utterly believable as God. Then again, this reviewer thought Alanis Morisette in Dogma was utterly believable as God. Seeing Carrey and Freeman in the same scene-the former jittery, the latter Buddha-calm-provides some interesting moments of cognitive dissonance, but there's an uncomfortable amount of Wise and Helpful Black Man stereotyping going on, as if The Legend of Bagger Vance were a made-for-PAX-TV movie.
The religious element of Bruce Almighty is handled either with deliberate delicacy or deliberate ignorance, I couldn't decide. No mention is made of any religion other than Christianity, but then again none of the characters are ever shown in church, although tiny gold-plated crosses hang about Jennifer Aniston's neck. Although it features a surprisingly unironic use of Joan Osborne's "What if God Was One of Us," it's not really a movie to make you go "Hmmm."
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Bruce Almighty is that it doesn't pretend that it isn't pretentious. Any movie that features a God-for-a-day checking his Yahweh! email and a dog reading a newspaper as it sits on the toilet, then concludes that prayer may be good but the people doing the praying have to help themselves out a bit, has got its head firmly in the clouds and its feet firmly on the ground. In fact, I'm certain that this review has read way more into the movie than any viewer should. If you're looking for serious religious messages successfully crossed with humor, search out some VeggieTales. If you're looking for less preachy, more jokey, go see Bruce Almighty.
Starring Jim CarreyDirected by Tom Shadyac94 minutesRated PG-13
Visually, the movie slides between what Carrey has always