Just say Noah: God stages a not-so-divine intervention

Evan Almighty

on June 22, 2007 by Chad Greene
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There are certain passages in the Bible where the wording seems open to interpretation, but Genesis 6:14-16—in which God instructs Noah in the specifics of ark building—isn't one of them.

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood,” God says unto Noah. “Rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second and third stories shalt thou make it.”

Concise, but comprehensive.

Yet when God (Morgan Freeman) commands newly elected U.S. Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to increase his constituency two-by-two by building an ark in the backyard of his home in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the former newscaster is given a decidedly different set of instructions: Ark Building for Dummies .

Sure, that's a mildly amusing gag, but the fact that he continues to consult it throughout the construction process is symbolic of what went wrong with Evan Almighty . Before embarking on an enormous undertaking such as building a roughhewn raft of Biblical dimensions or, say, making the most expensive comedy ever made, craftsmen should ensure they are building upon the proverbial stone, not sand.

If this is what inspired Universal to spend $175 million—a grainy vision of Carell, looking like a Jedi Knight with his white beard and layered brown and tan robes, suffering a series of slapstick construction injuries because God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided Evan with lumber and land but not carpentry skills—then Evan help them.

Granted, the vigor with which director Tom Shadyac satirizes Evan's delusively grand campaign pledge to “change the world” leads one to assume he never believed this flimsy farce would change it, either. But all the weak, winking wordplay in the world—the Baxters' realtor is named Eve Adams (Molly Shannon) in a nod to another tale from the Book of Genesis; the wood for the ark comes from an outfit called 1-800-GO-4-WOOD, as in “gopher wood”—can't camouflage the fundamental logical flaws of a script based on the premise that God would bother to unleash a flood to prevent a bill allowing limited development of national parkland from getting out of committee (and also, by the way, to compel two of every animal on Earth to show up for nothing more than a 10-minute ark ride).

The emotional, er, arc doesn't float, either. If the filmmakers truly believed that Evan needed to spend more time with his family, they should have done the same. Shadyac and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk don't bother to give the three Baxter boys personalities—or haircuts—of their own or to show us what Mrs. Baxter (Lauren Graham) could possibly see in her husband, a politician so vacuous that the only civics lesson he seems to have absorbed came from a Spider-Man comic book.

Long before the flood arrives, Evan Almighty 's all wet. My advice to you: Just say Noah.
Distributor: Universal
Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon and Wanda Sykes
Director: Tom Shadyac
Screenwriter: Steve Oedekerk
Producers: Tom Shadyac, Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Neal Moritz and Michael Bostick
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG for mild rude humor and some peril
Running time: 95 min.
Release date: June 22, 2007
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