Bruce Almighty

The prospect of Jim Carrey as a guy substituting for a vacationing God might thrill his fans and send tremors into the hearts of his detractors, but the reality of "Bruce Almighty" won't exactly rock anyone's world. Pic's theatrical horizon looks solid, but doesn't show signs of being a breakout summer hit.

Bruce Nolan - Jim Carrey God - Morgan Freeman Grace Connelly - Jennifer Aniston Jack Keller - Philip Baker Hall Susan Ortega - Catherine Bell Debbie - Lisa Ann Walter Evan Baxter - Steven Carell Ally Loman - Nora Dunn

The prospect of Jim Carrey as a guy substituting for a vacationing God might thrill his fans and send tremors into the hearts of his detractors, but the reality of “Bruce Almighty” won’t exactly rock anyone’s world. There’s remarkably little done with a premise snatched from high-concept heaven, adding yet another file to the growing cabinet of under-realized comedies. Carrey’s performance as an ambitious TV reporter challenging the Man Upstairs remains mostly on-track throughout, but lacks his characteristic ratio of comic fireballs. Pic’s theatrical horizon looks reliably solid, but doesn’t show signs of being a breakout summer hit.

The rematching of Carrey and director Tom Shadyac shows both of in a relatively subdued state, particularly from their younger, “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” days. With both having ventured unsuccessfully into pure drama just prior to this project (“The Majestic” for Carrey, “Dragonfly” for Shadyac), the joint return to comedy would have seemed like an elixir. Instead of rejuvenation, though, “Bruce Almighty” is the routine work of veterans.

As Bruce Nolan, funnyman reporter for a Buffalo TV station, Carrey has a chance to ham it up in front of two cameras at once. Bruce is frustrated because he believes he’s paid his dues, is “pushing 40,” and sees rival reporter Evan Baxter (“Daily Show” regular Steven Carell) as poised to beat him out for the nightly anchor position. He’s a worrywart to g.f. Grace’s (Jennifer Aniston) domesticating calm, and is convinced after Evan does snare the anchor job that God is out to get him — or worse, just ignores him and the mediocre life he shares with Grace.

Shadyac works up a few visual jokes, such as a resilient pager by which God (Morgan Freeman, in his best ice cream suit) first contacts Bruce to set up a meeting, but little of it is either magical or uproarious. Some jokey images, such as a pun on the parting of the Red Sea, grab the imagination, while others, from an exploding file cabinet that contains God’s data on Bruce to Bruce’s nonhouse-trained pooch (a nod to “Ace Ventura”) appear disconnected.

Out to teach this egotistical human a lesson, God takes a holiday and allows Bruce to take over the reins for a while. Typically, Bruce performs supernatural acts to please only himself, resulting in amazing sex for Grace. But since she’s led to believe Bruce is about to propose to her, then crushed when she realizes his eyes remain solely on Evan’s job, she dumps him, leading to Bruce’s emotional downfall and the inevitable third-act messages regarding human goodness, which are at least less gooey than those in Shadyac’s “Patch Adams.”

The potential for Carrey as God to wreak comic havoc is not only kept under a tight rein, it remains inconsistently realized. Shadyac and writers Steve Koran and Mark O’Keefe (also credited with the story) along with Steve Oedekerk never work out the logic of the greater concept. When, for instance, Bruce uses his powers to bring the moon closer to the Earth for the right romantic touch, it seems to trigger only one natural disaster instead of the thousands that would surely happen. Yet, apparently, without filling in viewers on many of the offscreen calamities, the movie subsequently shows local doomsayers howling about the end of the world.

This unsure approach carries over to the cast, many of whom are underused. Grace is cornered into the position of merely reacting to Bruce, and Aniston can only stare and remain starkly unfunny. Freeman appears born in his suit and takes it on with cool gravitas, as does Philip Baker Hall as Bruce’s news director boss. Among supporter thesps, Carell has by far the prime laugh moments, while fellow comic Nora Dunn’s nearly invisible role must have been discarded in the cutting room.

The production gives Buffalo and environs (much of it backlot, with Niagara Falls locations) the sunny Chamber of Commerce treatment. Production designer Linda Descenna’s depiction of God’s office as a giant all-white warehouse is far more inspired than John Debney’s sleep-inducing music.

Popular on Variety

Bruce Almighty

Production: A Universal Pictures release of a Spyglass Entertainment presentation of a Shady Acres/Pit Bull production. Produced by Tom Shadyac, Jim Carrey, James D. Brubaker, Michael Bostick, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe. Executive producers, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Steve Oedekerk. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Screenplay, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, Steve Oedekerk; story, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Dean Semler; editor, Scott Hill; music, John Debney; music supervisor, Jeff Carson; production designer, Linda Descenna; art director, Jim Nedza; set designers, Nancy Deren, Rich Romig, Evelyne Barbier; set decorator, Ric McElvin; costume designer, Judy Ruskin; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Jose Antonio Garcia; supervising sound editor, Michael Hilkene; visual effects supervisor, Bill Taylor; special visual effects, Syd Dutton, Bill Taylor; additional visual effects, PMP, Hammerhead; special effects coordinator, Dave Kelsey; stunt coordinator, Mickey Gilbert; associate producers, Linda Fields Hill, Janet Wattles, Jonathan M. Watson; assistant director, Jonathan M. Watson; second unit director, Mickey Gilbert; second unit camera, Donald M. McCuaig; casting, Junie Lowry-Johnson, Ron Surma. Reviewed at AMC Avco Cinema, L.A., May 20, 2003. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Bruce Nolan - Jim Carrey God - Morgan Freeman Grace Connelly - Jennifer Aniston Jack Keller - Philip Baker Hall Susan Ortega - Catherine Bell Debbie - Lisa Ann Walter Evan Baxter - Steven Carell Ally Loman - Nora DunnWith: Sally Kirkland, Tony Bennett.

More Film

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content