With its not-very-subtle attempt to soften Jim Carrey and its throwaway casting of Jennifer Aniston, Bruce Almighty feels like it should have been made in 1997. The first half hour of the film consists of Carrey doing his usual physically explosive, plastic-faced, put-upon schmuck schtick. The film gets some necessary gravitas when Morgan Freeman, perfectly cast as God, appears. Freeman standing still is more powerful a screen presence than Carrey moving, and thankfully Carrey (or director Tom Shadyac) understands that. Once the (admittedly superb) high concept kicks in, the film has great fun for about 30 minutes. As Bruce learns what he is capable of, Carrey's intense physicality helps sell the more outlandish stunts he pulls. The highlight of this section of the film is actually Steve Carell's amusing turn as a tongue-tied anchorman who is the focus of Bruce's anger. But the interminable last hour of the film is full of the same mawkish sentimentality that Carrey's audience rejected when it came in the form of The Majestic. The film's second half feels like an attempt to soften Carrey's image, which is not something that he needs to do at this point in his career. Fans will probably be satisfied with Bruce Almighty, but one gets the feeling that Carrey refuses to give his audience the laughs that they want unless they take him seriously as well. We are seeing a performer who once made his butt talk demand respectability.
Carrey is so gifted a physical comedian that even mediocre material shines in his talented hands, not to mention his talented feet, face, elbows, ears, hair and, ahem, derriere.
Bruce Nolan is one deeply disgruntled barrel of laughs -- the emotional kin of Bill Murray's cynical weatherman in Groundhog Day.
When Carrey is doing his thing as the Almighty, histrionically whipping up one miracle after another and relishing the power, Bruce has you spring-cleaning your lungs with laughter.
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