Bruce Almighty

on May 23, 2003 by Michael Tunison
Jim Carrey becomes God--comedy hooks don't get much more high-concept than that. And if “Bruce Almighty” can only come up with so many entertaining ways to twist what is essentially a one-note idea…well, that's why they pay Hollywood's top clown the big bucks. Indeed, the Rubber-Faced One's near-omnipotence in slapstick humor is thoroughly tested in this less-than-heavenly-inspired yukker, his latest collaboration with his “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Liar Liar” director, Tom Shadyac.

Carrey, for his part, is in hilarious form as Bruce Nolan, a Buffalo, N.Y., TV reporter frustrated at being regularly assigned to goofy human-interest stories--a specialty that doesn't seem to be bringing him any closer to his cherished goal of becoming a respected news anchor. When a run of particularly bad luck makes him feel he's being singled out for punishment, he angrily complains that the Almighty isn't giving him a fair shake. To his surprise, God (the effortlessly authoritative Morgan Freeman) shows up in person with a unique offer: He grants Bruce all of His mighty powers and challenges him to do a better job of running the world.

While the filmmakers work the concept for a few nice twists, most of what follows feels as gimmicky and contrived as it is, with only Carrey's superhumanly energetic delivery keeping many scenes from falling flat. Tellingly, the funniest moments come out of the star's more down-to-earth gags reporting on oddball news--though there is a screamer of a bit in which the empowered Bruce forces his arch-rival (Steve Carell from TV's “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) to embarrassingly begin speaking in tongues during a live broadcast. The ever-engaging Jennifer Aniston (“The Good Girl”) does what she can to ground the requisite romantic subplot, but it would have taken something more like divine intervention to raise “Bruce” to the level of Carrey's best. Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Steve Carell, Nora Dunn and Lisa Ann Walter. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe. Produced by Tom Shadyac, Jim Carrey, James D. Brubaker, Michael Bostick, Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some crude humor. Running time: 101 min

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