“Since when does anyone have a clue as to what they want?”
The Scoop: 2003 PG-13, directed by Tom Shadyac and starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Aniston.
Tagline: In Bruce We Trust?
Summary Capsule: Jim Carrey gets the power of God. God gets the power of Morgan Freeman.
Justin’s Rating: The Book of Bruce, chapter 1, verse 17: “And thouest sayeth, let there notteth be anothereth Carrey funny face”
Justin’s Review: Coming back from a road trip to visit a sick friend, I got pulled over at a toll booth because my exit ticket accidentally fell out of my open window somewhere ten miles back. Not being able to prove where I got on the toll road, I had to pay the full fare, which I (a broke college student at the time) certainly did not have. In this situation, sitting in a parked car and stewing over a bad turn of luck that wasn’t my fault, I found myself spitting not a few nasty words at God. As many of us have been, I was frustrated and looking for someone else to blame — and what target is bigger than the supposed Maker of everything, who knows all, sees all, has power over all, and yet lets that little ticket fall out of my window?
The attendant came back up to my car window and told me I was free to leave. A bit shocked, I asked why. “You see that car back there?” he pointed. “They paid your ticket.” It turns out that the car’s driver was a Christian, had seen someone in distress, and was willing to help them out even though I was a stranger. While I had been self-centered and quick to point a finger of blame at God, this guy had been looking out for others first because of his faith. Enough to say, it taught me a serious lesson about my attitude, and also convinced me that God has a wicked sense of humor.
It’s this lesson that Bruce (Jim “Rubber Face” Carrey) learns over the course of Bruce Almighty. Centered on the success and every nuance of downfall in his own life, Bruce is revealed to be a selfish and shallow person, unable to see all the great things in his life for want of better things he envies. As a funny TV reporter, he hams it up for local color stories, but craves the coveted anchor position at the news desk.
After one too many turns of bad luck, and one too many pointed accusations at the Big Guy Upstairs, Bruce finds himself face-to-face with the Holiest of Janitors, God (Morgan Freeman). What would you do, if you suddenly walked into God’s presence? Fall on your knees? Ask a million questions? Play finger-guessing games?
Bruce does the latter, and instead of incurring the Lord’s wrath for childish tests, Bruce instead gets more than he bargained for: all of God’s powers for a limited time, with only two rules: tell no one you’re God, and you can’t mess with people’s free will to make up their own minds. It’s a big responsibility and privilege, with all that power, so good thing that God grants it to someone who will take it seriously.
Oh wait, we’re in a Jim Carrey flick.
Bruce has a blast doing little magic tricks with his newfound powers, including (my favorite) parting a bowl of tomato soup like the Red Sea. He still mainly focuses on himself, however, neglecting all those “other” aspects of being God, such as answering prayers and helping out all those people. As we know that God was just setting him up for the big Lesson Learned payoff, no matter what Bruce does, it seems to make matters worse.
Bruce Almighty stutters between moments of brilliant comedy, such as Bruce’s efforts to housetrain his dog, and periods of more somber melodrama. The feel to the plot pacing was a bit off in this respect, as the filmmakers had a tough time taking a more serious subject and making it funny, yet still bringing us back to consider some of the logical complications of being God. I’m sure there’s not enough minutes in the world to fully cover what they wanted to here, and so I’ll merely be satisfied with what solid humor and theology they winged my way.
The film’s most poignant point — that for true love to be shown to God, God allowed people the freedom to choose him or not — is mirrored in Bruce’s relationship with his girlfriend, That Chick From Friends. Bruce tries all kinds of trickery to keep her from leaving him, but to no avail. At one point, he tries (in vain) to force her to love him, in an almost subtle rape metaphor with supernatural powers. Bruce is crushed to realize that if you have to force someone to love you, it really isn’t love, and it’s not worth having.
Carrey is funny but tame in this incarnation, reminding me of his scaled-back Liar Liar character, but I was absolutely pleased they brought in Steven Carell from The Daily Show as Bruce’s nemesis. Carell is one of those people who can be hilarious when acting completely serious, and I’m sure they don’t pay him enough. Freeman is also a catch as the mellow Creator, who fits the role in a way that George Burns could never approach.
As religion is one of the last major Hollywood taboos, it’s pleasant to see a well-received flick like Bruce Almighty unafraid to at least address some of the basic elements and questions of faith. It’s still a very cautious approach peppered with a heavy dose of jokes to offset any potential blasphemy charges (which didn’t entirely protect the religious comedy Dogma), but if it helps viewers consider the world outside their own immediate lives, if just for a couple hours, then it’s entirely worth it.
- References to Ace Ventura (by the same director and star): the monkey, “alrighty then”, “sissy girl”
- The town square is the same location that was used for parts 1 and 2 of the Back to the Future trilogy.
- The picture on the “Mr Exclusive” poster is taken from a promo shot from Liar, Liar. The school scenes were shot at the same school used for Liar, Liar.
- The music playing when Bruce parts the Red Soup is the theme to The Ten Commandments
- Outtakes abound during the end credits, so stay tuned!
- Instead of a phone number with the unused 555 prefix, a phone number that appears on the pager carried by Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) was an actual phone number in many US area codes, causing owners of that phone number to be bombarded with calls. The number was changed to a 555 prefix for the video release.
Bruce: Behind every great man… is a woman rolling her eyes.
God: Grace. You want her back?
Bruce: No. I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who will see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.
God: Now THAT’S a prayer.
Bruce: Love me. Love me.
Grace: …I did.
God: You don’t kneel in the middle of a highway and live to tell about it.
God: No, this is Mount Everest. You really should turn on the Discovery Channel every now and then.
Bruce: Feed the hungry, and give peace on all mankind. Is that good?
God: Yes… If you’re Miss America.
Bruce: And that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Bruce: How do you make someone love you without changing free will?
God: Welcome to my world.
God: Well, now I guess you can’t do anything now that you’re dead.
Bruce: I’m DEAD?
God: Naw, I’m just messing with ya.
Bruce: That is NOT funny.
Bruce: Hey, little anal-dwelling butt monkey. Time for you to go home, little buddy.
God: You have the ability to make people laugh. I know, I created you.
Bruce: Quit bragging.
Bruce: Smite me, oh mighty Smiter.
Bruce: God is just a mean kid with a magnifying glass. And I’m the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but he’d rather tear of my feelers and watch me squirm.
Bruce: There were so many. I just gave them all what they want.
God: Yeah. Since when does anyone have a clue as to what they want?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Ace Ventura
- Keeping the Faith