It's a second coming from some of the people behind the more successful Bruce Almighty. Evan Almighty, again giving us a regular guy called upon by God to do noble things, hews nicely to the formula, but the freshness and surprise are gone. Still, Steve Carell is pleasing and Morgan Freeman, who phones in his role, is a warm, earthy presence as the Almighty.
Landing solidly in the category of conventional, wholesome, middle-of-the-road family picture bearing gifts of lots of photogenic animals, eye-popping special effects and almost enough laughs (if no wit whatsoever), Evan Almighty should initially pull in respectable numbers. For the long run, the film may foretell the future of selling Bible pictures.
In this current Noah reworking, newly elected, gung-ho Buffalo congressman Evan Baxter (Carell) relocates his all-American family--mom Joan (Lauren Graham) and their three sons--to a lovely Virginia area outside D.C. On the job, Evan is corralled by fellow congressman Long (John Goodman) to back the latter's bill that will have public land turned over to private interests. Unbeknownst to Evan, the bill will destroy the land and make the corrupt Long even richer than he already is.
But Evan's pumped-up executive assistants, including PR motormouth Marty (John Michael Higgins), obsequious geek fact machine Eugene (Jonah Hill) and the wise-cracking Rita (Wanda Sykes), encourage their boss's endorsement, believing it will be a very prestigious move.
As Evan settles into his new gig and Goodman's pernicious bill grows closer to reality, the new congressman begins neglecting his family. Of course, such developments call for God's intervention and the signs emerge slowly. First, the number 614 (denoting the Noah's story location in Genesis) pops up all over the place, first on Evan's alarm clock. Then the animals start emerging, most notably the flock of birds that storm the Capitol room where Evan holds forth.
And, of course, God (Morgan Freeman) befriends the congressman and gradually makes obvious his mission. There are the huge wood deliveries to Evan's suburban house, Evan's facial hair that shaving won't remove, his new wardrobe, and the mammoth ark that the congressman--helped by Ark Building for Dummies--builds on his property.
As the ark grows, so grows the vast variety of animal species (in pairs, of course!) who aggregate on the property. And also grows the danger of the nearby dam bursting-the result of the dastardly Long's previous maneuverings.
Besides the animals and nifty effects, which deliver some splashy water episodes that rival those of The Perfect Storm, Evan Almighty is also amply blessed by its supporting cast, with Higgins, Sykes and Goodman as standouts. And just to make sure everyone is paying attention, the film provides enough bodily fluids and naughty references to grab both extremes of the intended family audience.
Above all, Evan Almighty, going a few steps beyond the Bible, is both fun and serious as it bestows its important messages about family, responsibility and the environment.