The Almighty sequel is greener, preachier than its forebear 

Evan Almighty
Dir. Tom Shadyac, writ. Steve Oedekerk, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow.; feat. Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Molly Shannon, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill (PG)
Attention all comedy-hungry atheists: The time has come, once again, to suspend your disbelief (at least on a superficial level) and accept God — in the form of Morgan Freeman.

Mankind could do worse — Freeman is the “voice of reason,” after all. (And a great actor, too. Imagine the alternatives: say, John Travolta. Shudder.). In Evan Almighty, the 70-year-old Oscar winner reprises his holy role — a joke-cracking deity who works his magic in snow-white, laid-back duds — with a few other emphases: He’s not too hot on suburban sprawl or politicians who don’t keep their campaign promises. If that doesn’t make you want to scrap the Big Bang, what will?

The politician in question in this sequel is former news anchor Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), who’s not so almighty as he is obedient — first to nature-hating Congressman Long (John Goodman), then inevitably to God. After winning a seat in the House (or Senate, who really knows …), Evan packs his family into the new Hummer and heads for a sizeable home in a freshly plotted development. Everybody’s happy till Dad starts growing werewolf-like facial hair … and building an ark.

Look, it’s not his idea of fun either, all these animals following him in twos, his new colleagues scrutinizing him. But, he doesn’t have a choice — he vowed in his campaign to change the world, and God hasn’t forgotten.

Of course — and I hate to be a spoiler-monger here — God’s got a penchant for spectacle — the flood he’s foretold is not an earth-covering disaster, but a fairly localized torrent (caused by, of all things, Congressman Long’s shoddy dam construction) that crushes Evan’s H2 (gas-guzzler-bashing or a comment on the temporary nature of material wealth?) and washes the ark right onto the Washington Mall. So those polar bears were just for show!

The whole movie reads like a double-entendre: For environmentalists and liberals we have the tossed development salad, topped with Green God, and a side of policy change, and for the Evangelicals, a tightly bound family of greens, held together oh-so-patriarch-ishly by a father’s faith. I’m sure some audience members are sampling from both menus.

With a PG rating, Evan Almighty is more a family-friendly event (it did cost $175 million bucks to make … fake arks ain’t cheap), than its big brother Bruce, a PG-13er, and that constraint certainly limits Steve Carell’s avenues for humor. (His hard-R The 40-Year-Old Virgin is alluded to in a way that is taunting, self-reverential, and subversive, simultaneously.) But his character’s employees, including Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, and Jonah Hill, solicit steady laughter.

And, of course, Freeman is pretty funny, but, as I think we’ve all been told at one time or another to our chagrin or no (just look at the duckbilled platypus!), God has a sense of humor.


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