It's a Mediocre Movie

Take the folks behind 'Ace Ventura' and throw in God, and this is what you get.

Imagine remaking It's A Wonderful Life for modern audiences. This is no easy task; that movie is still widely seen around Christmas time, and people remember it fondly. What would you do to enhance the almost universal appeal of this film?

If you said "start it with a booger joke," then by golly, you may well have a career in producing Hollywood movies!

Bruce Almighty borrows heavily from the Capra classic, and then adds a lot of dog pee and boogers to make it more palatable to our refined modern tastes. Jim Carrey plays the titular Bruce, who, after a particularly bad day, gets real whiney and starts blaming God for all his troubles. In fact, he gets so whiney that he actually tells God, to his face, that He sucks.

At this point, I saw two devout young women walk out of the theater. Now, I can see walking out because the movie started with a nose-picking scene, or because the words "kaka poopoo" were used in an attempt at humor, but c'mon, even the most religious people in the world occasionally think God sucks. I mean, what is Jesus saying on the cross except, in a sort of poetic way, "God, what's with this suckiness?" When God starts running after Moses and Moses is all not into it, I think that's just Moses' way of saying, "Yo, God, seriously: You suck." And, of course, the book of Job ends with Job asking God if, indeed, He sucks.

So let's not get all righteous, people. This movie, in spite of the fact that it features depictions of God, is pretty much as safe and cuddly in its religious aspirations as any film since The Muppets Take Communion. Sure, you can't please everyone when you've got God on screen, but when that God is Morgan Freeman, it's pretty hard not to love Him.

However, in case you're worried about being offended, here's the basic rundown on this God: He's pretty much the Catholic God, and also somewhat in line with "Free Will Protestantism" such as Southern Baptism and Methodism. He is definitely not the God of Luther or Calvin or Zwingli. He'd be a pretty good God for Muslims except that He's visually depicted, and same goes for Him being a God of the Jews. It'd be easy to assimilate Him into your Buddhist beliefs, and the great synthesizer, Hinduism, should have no trouble with this God.

OK, so for all you Catholics, liberal Muslims, reformed Zwinglians and open-minded Satanists, the question remains: In spite of my not being offended, will I actually be entertained by Bruce Almighty?

Ummm ... well, isn't "inoffensive" the same thing as "entertaining"? I'm pretty sure that's the current party line on things, so there you go!

Anyway, the basic plot has a few moments that could have risen above the ordinary. When Bruce curses God, God gives Bruce all of His power. This is exactly the kind of thing that rascally God would do, too! It's like when he hid all those dinosaur bones as a big joke to make us believe in evolution. Oh God, you kidder!

Bruce then takes this power and does what anyone would do with it: He uses it to give his girlfriend intense sexual pleasure. Imagine doing it with God. I mean really doing it. Must be nice.

Then Bruce goes around making himself famous and getting revenge on everyone who wronged him. Just like God did in the early days, remember, with the smiting and the prophesying and the plagues of locusts and itchiness?

And yet, after modeling his behavior on the God of the Old Testament, Bruce gets a serious dressing down from The Big Guy. What's up with that? Well, it seems that Bruce had complained about what a poor job God had been doing, and now that Bruce has the powers, he's not exactly living up to the ideal vision of Godhood that he'd set for himself.

In fact, he mucks things up so badly that his girlfriend leaves him. Imagine getting dumped when you have the power of God. You'd have to be an incredible loser! Poor Bruce.

Plus, his girlfriend is played by Jennifer Aniston, who's not only extremely hot, she's also turning out to be a pretty good actress. She and Jim Carrey don't exactly have "chemistry," but she manages to not look all grossed out when he kisses her, which, if you consider the kind of things Jim Carrey thinks are funny, is quite the acting feat.

Still, in spite of Aniston's reasonably decent performance, there's nothing particularly outstanding about this movie, which, I think, is the idea. Jim Carrey was basically in need of a mega-hit so he could justify his $20 million-plus salaries, so he went back to the man who made Ace Ventura, Tom Shadyac, and got him to direct this guaranteed revenue piece. There are basically no risks, unless you think it's risky to put God on screen at all.

By the way, if you think that, you're wrong. In fact, the film is so risk-averse that it actually ends with on-screen applause. It's hard to imagine a stronger marriage between cynicism and cuteness.