Sunday night, I took my wife and kids (ages 11 to 15) to see the new film “Evan Almighty”. The film stars, Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, an anchorman turned Freshman Congressman, with Lauren Graham as his wife, and Morgan Freeman reprising his role as God from the Jim Carey hit, “Bruce Almighty”. In that film, Carell had a minor role as the guy who got the anchor job that Bruce (Carey) aspired to. Evan is less of a sequel than a spin-off to the original film.

As “Evan Almighty” opens Evan, a workaholic, has just been elected to Congress on a promise to “Change the World” moves his family from Buffalo, N.Y., (the setting of the original movie) to a brand new housing development near Washington.

His assistants Rita and Marty (Wanda Sykes and John Michael Higgins) are surprised that their boss has managed to wangle a snazzy office. It seems he has caught the eye of powerful Congressman Long (John Goodman in a deliciously evil role)

            Long is impressed with the freshman from New York, and wants him to co-sponsor a bill that will create new development on land set aside for the Federal Parks System. This is quite a coup for a newly minted Congressman.

            However, God appears to Evan, and instructs him to build an Ark. Evan is naturally incredulous, but when animals (in pairs mind you) start following him everywhere, he soon gets the idea that God isn’t kidding!

            He starts building the Ark with the help of his 3 sons, who at first are reluctant, but are glad that at least Dad is spending some time with them. It seems he keeps promising to take them on a hike, but work always manages to intrude.

            Naturally the Ark begins to take over his life, and he finds himself with long hair and a beard that he can’t get rid of, (reminiscent of “The Santa Clause”), wearing biblical robes, and in Dutch with Congressman Long.

            That in a nutshell is the story. It’s simply a modern day retelling of Noah and the Ark. The movie has some funny moments, most of which were shown in the trailer. It was a cute movie, and the only really objectionable parts were the overabundance of bird droppings dumped on John Goodman.

            The problem with the movie is that while the premise was funny, the movie just fell a bit short. I had hoped for some knee-slapping guffaws, and truthfully only got a few mild chuckles. Tom Shaddyic (Liar, Liar, Ace Ventura 1 & 2, Bruce Almighty) is a competent director, but just seems to have gone through the motions here along with an Ark load of money for special effects.  In fact the movie cost $175 Million, (reportedly the most expensive comedy ever made).  Steve Oedekerk (Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, Patch Adams) wrote the screenplay, and it almost appears that he knocked it out in a couple of days.  The kids will probably enjoy the movie for the animals, and the poop, but a lot of adults are going to walk away wondering why the movie wasn’t funnier.

Rated PG for some bathroom humor. Now playing in most major theaters.

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