Bruce Almighty feels like it could have been the comedy remake of The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1937) that was once promised with Richard Pryor during the 1980s. It has a slim concept Jim Carrey gets Gods powers and goes around doing miracles. This is about the totality of Bruce Almighty as an idea. Not surprisingly the emphasis is all on Jim Carrey comically wielding godlike powers humiliating the lead bully of a street gang by making a monkey come out of his ass; embarrassing pompous rival Steve Carell by making him babble on air; increasing the size of girlfriend Jennifer Anistons breasts; making his dog pee in the toilet; parting the waves in his soup and then the traffic on the way to work; turning himself into Clint Eastwood.
Most people called Bruce Almighty an amiable return to form for Jim Carrey. While he never goes to some of the wildly over-the-top extremes he does in other films, Bruce Almighty is a glib fantasy. It might have worked on the level of brainless and unchallenging comedic yocks showing Jim Carrey doing godlike things that it was sold as, but it is also infected by Tom Shadyacs increasing desire to earnestly win peoples hearts as well with his comedy, something that badly dragged down both Shadyacs Patch Adams (1998) and Dragonfly (2002). Tacked onto the film is an excruciating ending where Jim Carrey must win back Jennifer Anistons love and learn to accept the mediocre life he previously reviled. The forced mania of Carreys sincerity in these scenes is as nauseating as it is unconvincing. Half of the problem with this is watching wild and crazy guy Carrey trying to play serious. When Carrey tried to play serious in films like The Truman Show and The Majestic, it came out sickly with a blandness akin to Robin Williams trying to do cute and mawkish, but where Carrey only came out seeming wimpy. Jim Carrey is best when he is going over the top, but Tom Shadyac keeps sticking him in films like Bruce Almighty and Liar Liar where he must undergo a transformation from zany to nice guy. You feel like you have gone into the film to watch someone go gonzo and over-the-top but by the time you come out, you have watched them reduced to a mushy marshmallow. Not to mention the fact that there does seem something ever so slightly bogus about an actor playing someone with godlike powers learning to accept the humble and unexciting life and getting paid $20 million to do so.
If it hadnt tried to take itself seriously and emotionally affect us, Bruce Almighty would be a less hypocritical film. Expectedly, it is of zero theological depth indeed the God portrayed here is so ecumenically vague that the film can manage to equally appeal to Christian and Jewish faiths without standing on eithers toes. One of the earlier drafts of the script must have had a potentially intriguing theme that questioned the effects that Jim Carreys indiscriminate use of miraculous powers would entail his tugging the Moon out of orbit for romantic purposes causing tidal devastation, his granting everybody their wishes having several million Lotto winners with each getting $17 and riots ensuing. Having raised these issues, the film then does absolutely nothing to depict how they might be remedied. It is a film not interested in the beneficent side of godlike powers, the responsibility such entails, or even of doing good with them, only in the inane comedic purposes they can be put to.
Indeed, Jim Carreys whining at God and blaming him about his mediocre life seems an entirely self-centred one surely people who have had their lives ravaged by flood or destroyed in the riots, indeed the homeless man that turns up throughout, have far more legitimate complaint than one newscaster with a small-breasted wife who failed to get the promotion he expected? The message that Morgan Freemans God eventually offers you want to see the miracle, be the miracle shows that the religion proffered here is merely a variant on the good old American one of self-earned destiny and self-sufficiency and surely something that only seems unfeeling in the circumstances. Too many of these wish fulfilment fantasies are glib messages about people accepting second place in life in the disguise of homilies about ignoring the things that are under their nose. Bruce Almighty not only parades the ordinary life with sickly regard, it does it in an entirely self-centred way that avoids responsibility for feeling about anybody else in the wider world. It is a whiny and self-indulgent film. I hated it.
Tom Shadyac directed a sequel Evan Almighty (2007) with Morgan Freeman returning as God and Jim Carrey replaced by Steve Carrell.
(No. 5 on the SF, Horror & Fantasy Box-Office Top 10 of 2003 list).