Bruce Almighty Review
Bruce Nolan seems like a lucky guy. He has a good job as a reporter for his local television station and a beautiful live-in girlfriend who adores him and looks a lot like Jennifer Aniston. Most men in those circumstances would be happy with their lot but not Bruce. He's one of those people for whom the glass is always half empty, who takes every setback personally and who puts the blame for everything he believes is missing from his life squarely on God. When Bruce is passed over for promotion and his subsequent tantrum during a live broadcast gets him fired, he launches into his most vitriolic tirade against God yet... and God decides that enough is enough. Taking the shape of Morgan Freeman (well, who else would a deity appear as? Vin Diesel?), God invites Bruce to a meeting and explains that since he thinks he can do the job better, he's going to get a chance to prove it. The Creator is taking a vacation and handing all his powers to Bruce, along with all his responsibilities.
This is a great concept for a comedy and Jim Carrey is perfect casting. With the wrong actor in the part, the first half hour could easily make Bruce an unbearable whiner but Carrey plays him with just the right amount of self-mocking and even gives him a certain amount of sympathy. Carrey's on fine comic form too - the scene where he loses his temper live on air is hilariously funny and looks improvised. Director Tom Shadyac, who worked with Carrey on the first Ace Ventura film and Liar Liar, knows exactly when to rein him in, when to let him loose and how far to let him go. Thus the star is relatively restrained in the beginning as the story is set up and then the pay-off comes when Bruce gets his powers and Carrey gets to run wild like he did in The Mask in one showstopping scene after another. Imagine every wicked, selfish, petty little thing you'd do if you could be God for a day and Carrey does it with a gleam in his eye.
Unfortunately it's a pay-off that comes and goes too early. Bruce Almighty is let down by its structure - it's a comedy in three acts and only the first two are funny. Inevitably, about an hour in, Bruce realises that using his powers for his own gain is wrong and he tries to become a better deity and a better person. This is treated surprisingly seriously, with Jennifer Aniston playing her character completely straight. Carrey is a good enough actor to make the dramatic stuff satisfying but it's not what we came for. And while it's hard to disagree with the moral messages here, it's still hypocritical for a film to invite the audience to enjoy the star's misbehaviour and then effectively wag its finger and say, "No, boys and girls, that's wrong". What Bruce Almighty desperately needs are some big laughs towards the end. Liar Liar also went soppy in the final act but at least it had that great courtroom scene to compensate. Maybe before trying to teach us a lesson, the film-makers should have learned one from Julie Andrews - that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.