Bruce Almighty Review
By Joe Lozito
I never thought I'd say this, but the second "Ace Ventura" movie is easily Jim Carrey's best. Of course, I defy anyone to tell me what it's actually about, but that was the fun of it. 1997's "Liar Liar," the movie that finally realized Carrey's greatest foil is himself, is a close second. After a few missteps, Carrey reteams with "Ace Ventura" and "Liar Liar" alums Tom Shadyac and Steve Oedekerk on "Bruce Almighty", a comedy about a Buffalo newscaster given God's powers. The premise sounds good, but this time around the result is forced and undercooked.
Unlike Carrey's earlier films, in which deeper meaning couldn't even be found in adjacent theaters, "Bruce Almighty" actually needs to take a stance on some theological issues in order to work. First and most obviously being the existence of Morgan Freeman (excellent as the Big Guy). There are also themes referencing free will and self-sacrifice sprinkled throughout, but only for taste.
The film borrows a lot from the seminal classic "It's a Wonderful Life", including a cute homage in which Bruce literally lassos the moon to make the night more romantic. When the film sticks to moments like that, it works. But where Capra's masterpiece took the time to create a rich town full of characters worth caring for, "Bruce" is a one-joke movie. And that joke only works for so long (it's a tribute to Carrey that he can make it work for about a half hour).
In supporting roles, "JAG's" Catherine Bell is able to vamp it up as an opportunistic co-anchor and "The Daily Show's" Steven Carell nearly steals the movie in the film's one transcendent moment of comedy (Carell's slimy anchor is made to helplessly speak gibberish on camera). Jennifer Aniston is the real surprise. After countless seasons of "Friends," Ms. Aniston is able to fill out even the flimsy role of The Girlfriend with sweetness and depth. Unfortunately, the writers squander the relationship between Carrey and his Aniston by concocting a senseless romantic triangle (how could Bruce be caught in the act if he's all-knowing?!).
As Bruce, a newscaster bucking for anchor, Carrey yells all his lines in his familiar wacky way - taking random words and molding them like silly putty. The scenes between Carrey and Freeman are a lot of fun. The idea that Bruce is so self-obsessed that he ends up bringing his town to the brink of disaster is a good one. But these notions are only touched on and Carrey himself seems a little tired and noticeably older. Many times he is forced to look earnestly into the camera and it feels like a play for sympathy, as if to say "look I can still do funny!" There are more great Jim Carrey movies to come, but this isn't one of them. Carrey's ill-advised attempts to play "serious roles" were too obviously Oscar bait. He doesn't need to play serious; he just needs to find a way to reconcile his gift for comedy with his age. "There's nothing wrong with making people laugh," Bruce is told early in the film. Amen to that.