Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Cassellindia Updated: Jun 25, 2003 19:58 IST
In Bruce Almighty, Carrey meets Capra in comic morality play terrain, but the outcome is well short of divine. The film hinges entirely on the rubber-faced Jim Carrey's special brand of physical comedy and that's as much a source of strength as a drawback.
The weakness stems from an inescapable sense of déjà vu: despite the high-concept central premise - a man is granted divine powers for a week after he raves and rants against God's injustice - the film reeks of a heavy Ace Ventura hangover. A "metaphysical" farce about man's position in the universe and crude slapstick of the Carrey-on-down-the-same-old-path variety are certainly not made for each other.
To be fair, some of the gags are riotously funny, as they are wont to be in a pure Jim Carrey vehicle, but they are too few and far between. Somewhere along the way, Bruce Almighty goes horribly long because director Tom Shadyac (he was behind the Ace Ventura films as well), misled by his Frank Capraesque aspirations, lets the film slip into preachy, sentimental, predictable mode. And that can only be bad news for a film that is essentially meant to make you laugh.
Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a frustrated television newsman who covets the job of a studio anchor. But life plays dirty tricks on him: he loses the anchor desk position to a smooth-talking rival, a gang of goons bashes him up and his car hits a lamppost, all in the course of a single day. He flips his lid and puts all the blame at God's door, accusing Him of not doing his job right.
God (played by the avuncular Morgan Freeman) responds by revealing himself in a bare, white-walled hall in a high-rise, first as a janitor, then as an electrical mechanic and finally as a nattily attired, all-knowing sophist, and blesses the cribbing, carping protagonist with powers that no man has ever had.
What does our hero do with his newfound omnipotence? Does he move heaven and earth to right all the wrongs that plague the world? Far from it, the guy cannot see beyond his own self-interest. He settles scores with the Hispanic thugs who had all but reduced him to pulp, gets even with studio rival Evan Baxter (Bruce calls him Evan Backstabber in one scene), wills his favourite hockey team to victory in the Stanley Cup and even gives his girlfriend's bust line - and sex drive -- a boost.
But even as a cacophony of prayers rings in his ears and he is thwarted in his personal designs by human free will, Bruce is unable to see what his adoring, long-standing girlfriend, Grace Connelly (Jennifer Aniston), really wants. She pines for a marriage proposal, but Bruce is too wrapped up in himself to realize that: all the guy can do in the course of a supposedly romantic dinner is crow about his elevation to the anchor's job. It's not funny!
Playing God isn't easy, especially if the man doing so is as flawed, as undeserving as Bruce Nolan, and the film he is called upon to do is in is as hamstrung by misplaced ambitions as Bruce Almighty. It might have been fine had the character been somebody as unsullied as James Stewart's small-town dreamer in Capra's magical It's A Wonderful Life. God - and US audiences - have been kind to Bruce Almighty, but see it only if you are an all-forgiving Jim Carrey fan.