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Film

Evan Almighty

Josh Bell

Evan Almighty

**

Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham

Directed by Tom Shadyac

Rated PG

Opens Friday

Steve Carell deserves better. After the twin successes of The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he’s clearly poised to become the next breakout mainstream comedy star, and Evan Almighty, reportedly the most expensive comedy ever made, is meant to loudly announce his arrival. As is perhaps inevitable with any movie that costs nearly $200 million to make, though, Almighty is bland, timid and predictable, and it squeezes most of the life out of Carell’s twitchy, oddball comedic persona. If there’s anything good about the movie, it comes when Carell is able to demonstrate a little of what made him so successful in the first place.

That was pretty much all he did in 2003’s Bruce Almighty, the Jim Carrey vehicle in which Carell’s unctuous TV news anchor was a minor supporting character. Carrey’s Bruce got some valuable life lessons when he was granted all the powers of God, and now the Lord (Freeman, also reprising his Bruce role) has set his sights on Evan, who’s left his TV job in Buffalo after being elected to the U.S. Congress.

Evan’s barely had time to settle into his new house and job before the smarmy deity shows up and demands that he build an ark in anticipation of a coming flood. Predictably, the ark is less about global disaster and more about Evan learning some important lessons about making time for his family and—most relentlessly and heavy-handedly—caring for the environment.

Carrey’s Bruce at least got to go a little crazy with his omnipotence before he had to become a better person, but Evan’s learning lessons from the get-go, which prevents the film from being much fun. Not that what passes for humor is worth a whole lot—there’s an entire montage of Carell falling down and/or getting hit with things, and far more jokes about bird poop than should ever be in one movie. Evan manages to be both a politician who never articulates a position on a single issue and a prophet who has nothing to say about faith, and the movie limps to a pointless anticlimax that is as devoid of substance as Evan himself.

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