Dir: Tom Shadyac. US. 2003. 102mins
The triumvirate of actor Jim Carrey, director Tom Shadyac and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk struck box office gold with their first film together, 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Ever since they have worked together in various combinations (for example Shadyac and Carrey with Liar, Liar). Finally they regroup for Bruce Almighty, an intermittently hilarious comedy about a self-absorbed but otherwise likeable TV reporter who is handed the keys to the Kingdom by God. Carrey's fan base deserted him when he tried more dramatic roles (The Majestic, Man On The Moon) and he has concentrated on comedy - albeit with a more serious through-line - ever since. Hoping that fans of Ace Ventura, will have matured, or at least aged, with him, Bruce Almighty showcases both Carrey's goofier side along with his more cerebral humour. Depending on the audience's emotional age, one or the other will hit home, as in the US, where the film had a triumphant opening, taking $85.7m from 3,483 sites for a $24,615 average, deposing The Matrix Relaoded from the top spot. Overseas, where it will similarly act as an alternative to action blockbusters, performance will be healthy, if not on the same scale due to Carrey's lesser pull in international markets compared with the US.
TV reporter Bruce Nolan has a "why me'" complex. He lives a happy and successful life: he has a TV job and a lovely girlfriend, Grace (Aniston), with whom he lives. Although he has carved out a nice niche for himself on the nightly news doing end-of-the-show fluff pieces, what he really wants to do is be a news anchor. Instead, his arch rival gets the gig. Feeling that he always loses out, he lays the blame squarely on God.
So God (Freeman) turns over his powers to Bruce to see if he can do any better. There are only two rules: Bruce cannot tell anybody about his gift and he cannot mess with free will. For a while he thinks he is on top of the world, but when Grace, tired of his selfish ways, leaves him, he finds he has no power to stop her. Suddenly, the new car and new job he has given himself do not seem that important.
When it comes to casting God, you cannot do much better than Freeman, who displays easy humour and modest dignity. The film endorses faith and religious belief more than is absolutely necessary, but in a film whose second lead is the God, it's not terribly surprising. Carrey and Aniston are both appealing, although those who do not already like the former are not going to change their minds based on this feature.
The big problem for some will be the uneven humour. About a quarter of it is hilarious, a quarter is forgivable and the rest is too broad for anyone who doesn't already cotton to juvenile humour. But for those fans, Dumb And Dumberer - albeit without Carrey - is just around the corner.
Pro cos: Universal, Spyglass Entertainment, Shady Acre/Pit Bull
US dist: Universal
Int'l dist: Spyglass (Jap,Scan,Ger-lang), BVI (RoW)
Exec prods: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Steve Oedekerk
Prods: Tom Shadyac, Jim Carrey, James D. Brubaker, Michael Bostick, Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe
Scr: Koren, O'Keefe, Oedekerk
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Prod des: Linda Descenna
Ed: Scott Hill
Music: John Debney
Main cast: Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Philip Baker Hall