May 23, 2003 -- "Bruce Almighty" is a schizophrenic movie, half crude comedy and half romantic sentimentality. The crude comedy is funny and the sentimentality is touching, but the two halves mix as poorly as oil and water.
The plot has TV reporter Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey of "The Majestic") given the powers of God for a short time and in a limited way. It seems God listened to Bruce's complaining about how he hadn't been given a fair shake. God (played by Morgan Freeman of "The Sum of All Fears," and by the way, he did not play the president in that movie, but rather the CIA director. He played the president in "Deep Impact.") offers Carrey the chance to be God for a time, ruling over Buffalo, New York. Bruce does all the trite, silly stuff you might expect, including clearing a path through traffic and making the Buffalo Sabres NHL champions.
Eventually, he finds out that being God is a big responsibility, and that his actions have consequences. He pulls the moon closer to the earth for a romantic evening with his girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston of "The Good Girl") and this results in high tides and coastal flooding (what a joke on those poor poverty-stricken coastal dwellers in third world countries!). Another stunt results in power outages in the city. Mostly, however, Bruce uses his power for very mundane things, a hot car, hot sex, getting even with bullies, getting big, exclusive news stories, and sabotaging a rival, Evan Baxter (Steven Carell of "Curley Sue"), so that Bruce can get the coveted anchor job at the news station he works for.
One of the rules that Bruce has to live by is that he cannot alter people's free will. Actually, he can, but the movie ignores this and many other logical flaws in the story. In one scene he sabotages Evan Baxter's delivery of the news by virtually taking control of Baxter's own body. This is a direct violation of the supposed rule against interfering with free will. There are other instances of this. Another problem is that God seems to be rewarding bad behavior by giving Bruce almost unlimited power simply because Bruce complains a lot. If God wanted to teach Bruce a lesson, there are better ways to do that, such as putting Bruce in the body of some poor AIDS victim in Africa. The film makes the argument that Bruce has it tough. He's actually got it very easy.
Bruce wants Grace to love him, but he has become unlovable since his ego has swelled to match his godly powers. Even though his power is vast, it cannot get him his heart's desire. This is where the movie veers away from comedy to sentimentality. It does manage to jerk some tears, but the comedy works much better than the love story. The two halves of the movie are so different they scarcely seem to fit together to form a whole film. It is sort of like the front end of the film is a Volkswagon Beetle and the back end is a pickup truck. The only thing holding this mismatched movie together are the considerable talents of Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman, but they are so good they make you forget the sloppy script. There are plenty of laughs and some touching sentiment, too. There is something here for everyone, even if the plot is slipshod. This film rates a C+.
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