My wife and I caught the screener for Evan Almighty last night. The laughs started rolling before the opening credits due to a mildly crazy lady who stole for seats from some Jr. high girls who had gone to the concession stand. For her rudeness, my friends, Bryan, Kraig, a lady sitting near us and others gave her a hilarious earful, complete with just a hint of name-calling (I won’t tell you what I said – but trust me, it was kind).
Anyway, there are both some positives and negative about Evan Almighty, which opens in theaters everywhere, June 22.
This sequel to Bruce Almighty is heavily aimed at Christians. In fact, there is an attempt to use the movie to launch new ministries in churches, called Ark Almighty. In short, it is designed to help churches meet the needs of their fellow church members – which is good, but in some ways not big enough.
Here are the positives: Evan Almighty is good, family fun. If you’ve got elementary school aged kids and older, you should check it out. No foul language, no sex, nothing that you’d be embarrassed about. It’s aimed at families and Christians, no doubt trying to ca$h in on “The Passion of the Christ” phenomena. Most people will find the movie somewhat funny. There are some parts, particularly the scenes with Wanda Sykes, who is always hilarious that are very funny. At the same time, the scenes with Morgan Freeman as God are both simple and thoughtful in there theology. Freeman gets much more screen time in this pic than the previous one, which for reasons I’ll explain later is both good and bad. And finally, director Tom Shadyac brings his faith commitments to the screen in humble ways that hint the viewer toward faith without beating them over the head.
The negatives of the film mostly come by way of comparison to the first film – which is typically the case with sequels. First of all, family humor is often corny to me, and frequently you can see a joke coming half a mile away. Second, the spiritual themes (and they were abundant) from Bruce Almighty were – for me at least – more subtle and more profound. Much of this is found in the ‘deleted scenes’ on the DVD, but in over a decade of ministry, I’ve found nothing that teaches more and better about prayer than Bruce Almighty. Third, there’s a lot of God (Morgan Freeman) in Evan, wherein he was only physically present a few choice times in Bruce. I think it would be easy to follow God is He were showing up in the flesh every five minutes, explaining everything and handing out how-to manuals (you’ll get it when you see the movie). Third, while Bruce Almighty approached God from an unbeleivers’ perspective, Evan has beleivers in mind. This isn’t necessarily bad, it just raises different questions, and as professional clergy, I already have the inside track on “believer questions” and, quite frankly, find them less interesting. Finally, it seemed like there were so many stories to tell that they couldn’t tell them all. Evan has major work to do with his wife – played gloriously by Lauren Graham (and I think Lauren Graham is great in everything – wink) – as well as work to do with his kids and himself and all these storylines are half told. I would have liked to have seen Evan discover his three sons through the building of the ark. At the same time, there is much that could have been said about creation-care that goes unsaid (but it’s hard for me to criticize that and praise Shadyac for not beating people over the head).
In the end, Evan Almighty is a good effort and you should see it. The spiritual themes abound and people of all ages will enjoy it. You will particularly like it, if like me, you are a Daily Show fan, since Evan is replete with Daily Show talent, including Jon Stewart. Don’t go expecting the edginess and frank questioning of faith that Bruce Almighty provided, but do go expecting to have a good time and food for thought and conversation with believers and near-believers.