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Bruce Almighty

  Bruce Almighty
Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston need to ditch the Sabres and put the Red Sox into God's plan.

© 2003, Universal
All Rights Reserved

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a television reporter stuck handling puff pieces in a life he does not want. Aided by his supportive girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston), Bruce is facing the worst day of his life, which leads him to curse God (Morgan Freeman) for his bad luck. God retaliates by giving Bruce the chance to enjoy His powers for a short time, and see if Bruce could do a better job with humanity. At first, Bruce is overwhelmed, using his powers for vengeance and personal gain. But soon the true nature of God's work reveals itself to Bruce, and he must look long and hard at his own life and see what really matters to him.

Like Eddie Murphy in "Daddy Day Care," Jim Carrey seems to be in career repair mode after his catastrophic attempt at drama in the frail 2001 fantasy, "The Majestic." Though he shouldn't be solely blamed for that failure, one gets the feeling watching "Bruce Almighty" (IMDb listing) that Carrey wants to retrieve his comedic crown, and I'm all for it. Carrey is a sensational comic actor, using facial tools mere mortals do not have, and for two acts of "Almighty" we can see Carrey again plunging viciously for laughs. Quite often in the opening moments of the film, it seems Carrey is channeling the holy spirit of Ace Ventura for some sequences. It's a joy to observe Bruce learning the unlimited potential of his powers, which involves him parting the "red soup" in a diner, or making a monkey appear out of a gang member's hindquarters. Or even the scenes where Bruce uses these powers for devious means, which has him physically moving the moon closer to set a romantic mood, or, in one of the film's best scenes, sending waves of unexpected orgasmic shocks to Grace to get her into bed quicker (also a short glimpse of what was probably "Almighty's" long-ago-intended R rating). Reteaming with his "Liar, Liar" and "Ace Ventura" director Tom Shadyac, Carrey is encouraged to be as silly as he can get. And he needs to be, as the last of the film is a colossal wet blanket.

In place of taking all this insanity to a peak of comedic release, Shadyac and the screenwriters have decided, rather dreadfully, to grow a heart. As Bruce begins to abuse his powers, he is also missing the true purpose of God's work, and that is to deal with humankind. For the first time, Bruce witnesses the pain and joy of life, and attempts to do something about it. Carrey tries mightily to make this side of the film work by sticking in a joke or two here or there, but by reaching for sentiment, Shadyac is essentially popping the tires on his own film. There seems to be some kind of unwritten Hollywood handbook that states that all big-budgeted comedies must try to feel in their third acts, with rarely any of them succeeding in maintaining the comic momentum they so carefully built. Straight-out comedies like "Old School" are so hard to find these days, and "Almighty" would've been far better served if they ditched the drippy dramatics and tried to make their points about the state of the world through laughs. In place of yuks we see the sweet Jennifer Aniston crying, and Bruce being hit by a truck. Hilarious.

Hey, I'll take a semi-funny Jim Carrey movie any day over another "Majestic." While "Bruce Almighty" isn't truly the smile bonanza it could've been, it does deliver when it counts, and blissfully reminds the audience that there still is a madman in Carrey, behind all that desire to be taken seriously.

Filmfodder Grade: B-

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