Evan Can Wait

Why in God's name did Steve Carell take the paycheck?

Evan Almighty is the work of an angry God. A sanctimonious sitcom dolled up as the most expensive comedy ever made— $175 mil, so they say, no doubt choking—it marks an unfortunate low point in the history of recent American comedy. There goes Steve Carell's perfect game.

In short, God (Morgan Freeman, who you know is God because his white linen shirts never wrinkle) tells Evan, an anchor-turned-politician, that if he builds it, they will come—"it" being an ark, "they" being animals lined up two by two. The movie suggests, quite frankly, that God's nothing more than a son of a bitch who's willing to drown thousands of people just to prove that one character—and you'll know who, like, 12 minutes in—is up to no good. Rather than use Evan as a vessel to warn innocent people about impending disaster, God turns the poor guy into a Rogaine freak show with a messianic complex toward whom elephants and monkeys migrate.

And why does God choose Evan? Because he was played in the original, Bruce Almighty, by Steve Carell, on a roll till now with The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which the former Daily Show correspondent proved he was willing to debase himself for a well-deserved laugh. Who better to build a sequel around than an actor for whom self-humiliation is considered an act of heroism?

Evan Almighty actually stoops, repeatedly, to remind you how much you like Carell. There's a movie marquee advertising The 40-Year-Old Virgin Mary, and the camera actually lingers on it for several seconds. Jon Stewart appears twice from the Daily Show set, poking fun at Evan's transformation from suit-and-tie politician into robed messiah. (In the film's holier-than-thou context, Stewart comes off like a godless heathen, which, blessedly, he is.) And several of Carell's Office and Virgin cast mates make small cameos. Sweet Lord, how they all try—to no avail. This is PG-rated proselytizing tinged with Al Gore self-righteousness, all with the narrative thrust of a film about the apocalypse starring Kirk Cameron.

 
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