Somewhere underneath the surface of Bruce Almighty is a story about abusing ultimate power for personal gain and not needing divine intervention to find oneself. Unfortunately, this story is sacrificed for Jim Carrey’s antics whenever the plot stalls.
Thou Art in Buffalo
PG-13 for Language, sexual content, crude humor
Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a down-on-his-luck Buffalo TV news reporter who gets stuck covering silly stories such as The Biggest Cookie in Town. He wants a soon-to-be available anchor job at the station, but he is losing the inside track to his rival, Alex Baxter (Steven Carell). His girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) longs for Bruce to give in to commitment, while his dog has an annoying habit of relieving himself on the furniture.
When asked to cover another fluff assignment, Bruce has the chance to go live, only to find out that during this live feed, the anchor job has been given to Baxter, and Bruce responds with an anti-Baxter tirade that gets him fired. After he gets kicked out of the station, he gets beaten up by thugs while trying to help a blind man.
Why Me, Lord?
Bruce blames his bad luck on God and feels he is being punished for no reason, which leads him to kneel on a street in the middle of the night and scream to the heavens. It is not like he is an Afghan refugee without food and shelter, or he has cancer or AIDS.
Still, he meets God, played stoically by Morgan Freeman, in an abandoned warehouse after he gets a strange phone number on his pager. To give Bruce a taste of what it is really like to be the Supreme Being, God grants him His powers so He can take a little vacation.
The Wrath of Bruce
The funniest scenes occur when Bruce unleashes this power to get his job back and avenge himself on those who wronged him. He literally brings the ultimate “like that will happen” scenario involving monkeys and butts to life. But the plot starts to feel contrived when he realizes that being God means more than giving Grace bigger breasts and having his favorite hockey team win the Stanley Cup. We know that the fun can last only for so long and a sense of urgency will set in like it usually does in these fantasy comedies.
But the movie makes no use of this sense of urgency. Screenwriters Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekerk cannot seem to make up their minds on exactly how Bruce is going to save his relationship, his career or his sanity while answering the millions of prayers he receives every day. The scenes where God comes back every once in a while to see how Bruce it doing disrupt the movie even more.
It is also painfully easy to lose track of how long Bruce has before he has to relinquish his powers back to the Supreme Being. A time limit is hinted at, but we do not know what it is. It is obvious that it has something to do with finding himself, but it is not clear. Also too many characters are also added to the mix, including sexy anchor Susan Ortega (Catherine Bell from JAG), who wants to have an affair with Bruce.
Sometimes the story comes up with a crisis to be used as a plot device, but then it is forgotten a few scenes later with little or no ramifications. During his first night as God, he gets Grace “in the mood” by pulling the moon closer to earth to make it look bigger and therefore more romantic, but we learn a few scenes later that many floods are wreaking havoc in the world due to “unusual tidal activity.” Then it is forgotten, because later in the movie you do not see Bruce pushing to moon back to its normal orbit.
Carrey has enough of a fan base to bring people into the theaters for a big opening weekend, but the jury’s still out for a lot of us. Bruce Almighty might leave people still wondering why he has gotten to be so successful. He is funny, he is talented, and he can carry (no pun intended) a movie, provided it is lowbrow fare such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or Dumb and Dumber.
But for many, watching Jim Carrey is the only reason to see this movie. It is like seeing a Jackie Chan movie only for his acrobatics, although Chan tends to be much more entertaining. This overreliance on Carrey is what sinks Bruce Almighty. Just when it looks like the movie might be going somewhere, its reverts back to being a Jim Carrey vehicle to get a few more belly laughs.