Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Evan Almighty is a Likeable Fantasy

Do you believe in miracles? Do you have faith in a higher power (a/k/a God)? Do you believe politics is fraught with corruption? Say it with me now, “Thou shalt do the dance!”

The critics were wrong about Evan Almighty, nominee for MTV’s Best Summer Movie You Haven’t Seen Yet 2007 Award, starring Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, and Lauren Graham. Genesis 6:14 is lovingly brought to life in this updated fable of change and redemption. The actors are physically pleasing and sufficiently expressive, the plot relatively easy to follow, the cinematography is at times breathtaking … what is not to like?

In his day, Noah was the ultimate rebel, a testament to belief in a higher power doing what God commanded by building a gigantic ark. All the while, he endured the taunts of disbelievers who eventually perished in the ensuing flood. Likewise, Steve Carell is newly elected Congressman, Evan Baxter. His prayers land him in the unenviable position of constructing a biblical sized ark in modern day suburbia. Morgan Freeman, in the role of an affable human God with bad teeth, prods Evan along, despite criticism from his family and work staff, camera crews parked outside his newly acquired McMansion, and the prying lens of C-SPAN. Nobody drowns in this likeable comedy from Director Tom Shadyac, although John Goodman, playing a greedy congressional blowhard, suffers a final comeuppance some might liken to a fate worse than death.

A few gags are laugh out loud funny, provided your taste in humor is one brow short of high. The closing credits alone are to die for BUT do not fast-forward or scene select if you want to get the full impact. Animal lovers will also appreciate the film’s prominent inclusion of furry, scaly, and feathered beasts. One scene in particular has Carell covered in head to toe birds. Animatronics or not, the display is impressive, if only for the two undeniably real creatures who flutter on board before the cut. In a later scene, cute raccoons break bread with their caretaker. Cameo appearances by lions, snakes, skunks, and alpacas, along with stellar performances by Wanda Sykes, Molly Shannon and Jonah Hill of Superbad fame round out the cast.

Throughout the film, perhaps not so subliminal messages suggest lofty goals. Spend more time with family. Don’t focus on outer appearances. Do what is right even in the face of obstacles. Reach out and help your neighbor. We’re all in this together, whatever this is, whether we want to be or not, so act for the greater good.

Luckily for Evan Baxter, God steers him in the right direction and yields little room to wiggle out. If the rest of us mere mortals want to change the world, however, we'll have to aspire to one "ARK," roughly translated as one act of random kindness at a time. With the right amount of belief and fortitude, miracles can and do happen. An uplifting message hard to come by in this day and age and isn’t that the magic of movies after all?

Now everyone get up and dance.