Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.
Bruce Nolan is an ordinary guy. That’s the problem, though. Bruce feels that he’s stuck doing the human-interest fluff stories on Channel 7 while rival newscaster Evan Baxter gets all of the hard-hitting, important stories. Bruce gets stories on the city’s biggest cookie while Nolan gets stuff about health hazards. Bruce desperately wants a shot at the big time, but he’s just not cut out for it.

True to comedic films, Bruce has a really bad day. After flipping out on live TV, he’s fired. Then, he tries to protect a homeless guy, but gets beaten up over it. Then, he gets in a fight with his girlfriend, Grace, played by Jennifer Aniston. Plus, the dog keeps urinating on the furniture. To top it off, he gets in an accident that night. Finally, he has it out with God. Why would such a kind and merciful God pick on poor, poor, pitiful Bruce? Why does he have to suffer so much?

That’s when he gets paged. After several attempts, Bruce finally calls the number. He gets a recording. (The recording is actually specific enough to ask if his name is Bruce.) He goes to an address that turns out to be an abandoned building, but he goes in anyway. The outside is old and dingy, but the inside is pure white. There, he finds the janitor mopping. Bruce is directed to Room 7, which happens to be on the seventh floor. (The elevator’s broken, so he has to walk.) Upstairs, he finds the janitor fixing a bulb. Bruce doesn’t like having to walk up the stairs, but he lets it pass. He asks for the boss, which happens to be the janitor. (The janitor is Morgan Freeman; it turns out that God does all of His own work.)

It takes a few minutes for Bruce to accept who he’s dealing with. When he does, God makes a proposal. Since Bruce thinks that God’s not doing a good job, He’ll take a vacation and leave Bruce with all of His powers for a few weeks. (Hence the name of the movie.) There are two rules, though. Bruce can’t claim to be god and he can’t affect free will. (The first rule is more of a warning to avoid that kind of attention; the second is hard and fast.) Bruce accepts and starts by fixing his own problems. For starters, he gets revenge on the gang that beat him up. Then, he gets in good with his girlfriend and eventually embarrasses Evan into quitting.

After a little prodding from God, Bruce starts thinking about others. He hears voices, which turn out to be prayers. Not wanting to go crazy, he sets up a computer to be Prayer Central. Instead of reviewing each prayer, Bruce finds it easier just to say yes to everyone. This leads to problems. Everyone wins the lottery, but each winning ticket is worth $17. Riots ensue and the power grid loses stability. Also, Bruce’s newfound fame leads to other kinds of attention, thus leading him to break up with Grace. Bruce has to figure out how to get her back without affecting free will. In the end, all works out well. I won’t say exactly how, but Bruce learns his lesson.

What I will say is that the message isn’t overt. The movie doesn’t shove proverbs down your throat or try to make you believe. It’s more about Bruce and what he has to learn about himself. Carrey has it toned down a little bit. He plays the role more like The Truman Show than Ace Ventura. He does have a lot of goofy scenes, though.

As I mentioned in this review’s title, Bruce is in the details. Look for details. Some are obvious, as is the case with the Parting of the Soup. Some are subtler. When Channel 7 throws a party for Bruce, notice what’s in the container that Bruce is carrying. Pay special attention to it and what he’s pouring for the people.

Jim Carrey was the perfect actor for the part of Bruce and Morgan Freeman was perfectly cast as God. Morgan Freeman plays the role with all of the seriousness and dignity you’d expect from God whereas Jim Carrey is just this goofball that wants to do things his way.

Carrey also has Jennifer Aniston to play off of. Bruce can’t see past his own career whereas Grace wants a family and a happy life with the man of her dreams. The more Bruce tries to pull her his way, the more she resists.

Then, there’s Evan. Even is all that a serious reporter is supposed to be. Bruce is always the other guy. He’s the one you turn to with a story the city’s biggest cookie. Bruce is exactly where he’s supposed to be. He just doesn’t realize it. All of Bruce’s selfish acts have dire consequences. Even his altruistic ones have dire consequences. Bruce doesn’t realize that there’s a delicate balance to everything.

No comments :