Film review by: Witney Seibold
Regardless of your spiritual, religious, or theological stance on the world, I think it can be agreed that God, as seen in Hollywood blandmeister Tom Shadyac’s comedy “Bruce Almighty,” is the ideal form of how the pop-contemporary secular world views Him/Her. God is seen as a kindly old guy who just has a really stressful job, but can keep His cool under pressure, and take time to teach oversimplified life lessons to people like Bruce (Jim Carrey). Like a cosmic guidance councilor, God sits up in heaven dispensing advice, and occasionally performing miracles. He’s less like what Christ and Mohammed talked about, and a little more like Yoda.
Which is fine in this theologically light-as-air summer blockbuster. Bruce has a run of bad luck: a smarmy guy (Steve Carell) takes a job he really wants, he gets fired, his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) won’t indulge him, his dog pees on the furniture. He believes in God, so rails against Him for not stopping his troubles. God (Morgan Freeman, the perfect man for the role) reacts to this by offering Bruce God-like omnipotence for a short while, seeing if he could do a better job of this whole God thing. Like most people would, Bruce uses his new powers to do quotidian things like score with his girlfriend, and part traffic. He helps mostly himself, and is not very good at helping others. It’s all pretty funny, actually. Bruce, of course, soon learns his lesson about personal willpower, and finds that answering prayers is a tricky business, and free will is indeed God’s greatest gift. Perfect God movie for popcorn consumption.
While hardly a serious forum for theological considerations, this film is surprisingly tactful. It allows us to enjoy a light airy Jim Carrey vehicle; he does his lazzi well, but without preaching. It stays away from any particular religion. It doesn’t bring up any of the tough questions. There aren’t any Nietzsche fans or other atheists in the film. It brings God down next to us, and defines the world in romantic comedy terms. If this sounds tricky, I assure you it works well. I laughed, and I appreciated the true, if not somewhat syrupy simple messages. It’s a Humanist image of God, if you will. And it’s also an amusing film.