There’s a recent trend with a lot of so-called comedies that comes out of Hollywood that states that the trailer is usually funnier than the actual movie. This is because the trailer gets to cram all of the movie’s jokes into a 2-minute span, whereas the actual movie has to space out its 2-minutes worth of jokes into a 90-minute container. Even if the film has only a couple of really funny gags, two minutes is a relatively short time to fill. And like “Just Married”, another advertised comedy, the new Jim Carrey movie “Bruce Almighty” stuffs all of its jokes into its trailer — and, as Bugs Bunny likes to say, that’s all folks.
But unlike “Just Married”, which relied on two relatively unknown actors to carry the non-comedic moments, “Bruce Almighty” has Mr. Plasticman himself, Jim Carrey, at the center. Carrey is Bruce Nolan, a Buffalo reporter who has a beef with God. After being passed over for his station’s anchor position, is subsequently beat up by street punks, and then crashes his car into a pole, Bruce has had it with God. Enter Morgan Freeman, who plays God. Just as fed up with Bruce’s complaints, God teaches Bruce a lesson by giving him the position of God while he goes on vacation.
And here, at the 30-minute mark, is where all the jokes you see in the trailer appear. There’s a 10-minute span where “Bruce Almighty” is actually a very funny comedy, but alas 10 minutes of jokes does not a 90-minute movie make. Hence, the rest of the film is doled out to sugary human drama, a predictable romance angle between Bruce and his patient-as-a-saint girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston), and mild melodrama as Bruce’s unwieldy abuse of his Godly powers causes the city of Buffalo near total annihilation. Doesn’t sound funny, right?
What does keep “Bruce Almighty” from being a total failure is Jim Carrey, who has learned drama from “The Majestic”, so the film’s final 40-odd minutes, when Bruce repents and seeks to right his wrongs, works somewhat as a comedy-drama, with more emphasis on the drama. Besides the God-inspired chuckles, there are some smiles to be had, mostly in the beginning as Bad Luck Bruce goes about his day, finding more and more reasons to hate God. His brief duels with “The Daily Show’s” Steven Carell, as a rival reporter, are pretty funny. As God, Morgan Freeman (“Seven”) is the perfect person for the job. And oh yes, it doesn’t hurt that the lovely Catherine Bell (TV’s “Jag”) plays the local hot anchor.
“Bruce Almighty” was directed by Tom Shadyac, who joined forces with Carrey once already on “Liar Liar”, and also did the drama “Dragonfly”. Shadyac is not a flashy director, and if anything his style can be called “workman-like”. One of the writers of “Bruce” is Steve Oedekerk (“Kung Pow”), from whom I expected more funny stuff — or it could be that Oedekerk was simply brought in to make the script funnier, since story credit belongs to Koren and O’Keefe, two TV writers. The movie looks like it wants to be a drama, but was made into a comedy after Carrey’s involvement. Or at least that’s what it feels like.
“Bruce Almighty” is a one-trick pony, and once the trick has been done to death (in this case, about 10 minutes worth), there’s a need for something more to occupy the rest of the audience’s attention. “Bruce” doesn’t have enough “something more” to sustain itself, which may explain why the movie never made me really laugh. Then again, it never bored me either, so that’s a plus.
Tom Shadyac (director) / Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk (screenplay)
CAST: Jim Carrey …. Bruce Nolan
Morgan Freeman …. God
Jennifer Aniston …. Grace Connelly