Bruce Almighty
starring Jim Carrey

2 1/2 stars

"If we had the power of God, we wouldn't have the first clue what to do with it. "

That's the message, perhaps unintentional, of Bruce Almighty. Not only is it the message of the story, about Jim Carrey as Bruce, a jokey TV reporter who receives omnipotence, but it's also the message of the film itself, since the filmmakers really *do* have the power of God over the world of the movie. In both cases, faced with this awesome power, filmmakers and Bruce do the same thing: blow it all on self-centered boobery of a depressingly low grade.

How are the laughs? Well, you've seen 'em in the trailer, Jennifer Aniston jiggling her boobs saying, "Are my boobs bigger?" while Jim Carrey stares and goes "Duh!" and makes idiot faces at the breakfast table. Nose-picking and hairnets are the two comic ideas for the first scene; later gaggery revolves around a dog that's always pissing in the house, forcing Carrey to run out on the street holding the still-pissing dog in front of him. 

If that sounds funny to you, you'll probably have a pretty good time at Bruce Almighty, which is all about coasting as lazily as possible on Carrey's supposedly manic comic energy. Carrey's in a curious place in this film, no longer the living cartoon character he was in movies like Ace Ventura, not quite a "serious" dramatic character as he was in The Truman Show. Now he's an uncomfortable fusion of both, a real guy with a lot of comic twitches and bits, verbal tics like saying "It's good, it's guuu-yud!" all the time

The big comedy set piece is a stuttering, speaking-in-tongues thing where Carrey takes petty revenge on the jerk who got the promotion Carrey wanted. Certainly, it is a form of humor, blurting out bu-guh bu-gah bu-guh funny noises in weird rhythm, and there was a sympathetic rumble of appreciative laughter in the theatre as the scene blurbled along. It's pure clownery, making faces and funny sounds in the hope that somebody will laugh.

But that's the comedy high point of the movie, and it's chuckle-worthy at best. Beyond that, a smoking Catherine Bell from TV's JAG as the chick who wants to hump Carrey, Steven Carell from The Daily Show as the jerky news anchor, and a few amusing flights of visual fancy like a whirlwind of post-it notes or the Parting of the Soup, Bruce Almighty completely punts the potential of the "What if I was God?" idea by defaulting to a bland, pablumized, secular envisioning of God.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine that anybody involved with Bruce Almighty has ever gone to a church, so empty is the film of religious insight. Instead, the notion of God is that fuzzy atheist one of God or "God" as a powerful and vaguely benificent wizard in the sky, a view that's also pretty comfortable to the millions of god-fearing Americans who believe but who don't actually go to church or follow a particular faith. 

We see this in the rules Carrey has to obey when he becomes God: he can't tell anyone and he can't violate free will. On the surface that seems reasonable; if God exists, those seem to be the rules he plays by in this universe. But what the movie means by "not violating free will" is that Bruce has no connection to the human soul, can't compel any action, and has no ability to change or influence or even know what people are thinking. Folks who went to Sunday school may recall that this is kind of a central feature of most conceptions of  God. In Philosophy 101 terms, he's got omnipotence without omniscience. Without that knowledge, Bruce isn't God; he's just Neo. 

So instead of the movie being "What if you were God?", it's more like "What if you were a Wizard?" Bruce is capable of airbrushing the sky and lassooing the moon to create a sexy evening for Jennifer Aniston, but when he asks her to dinner at the fancy restaurant where they first met, he has no idea she thinks he's about to propose. The main plot revolves around Bruce using his godlike powers to stage asteroid strikes and Jimmy Hoffa discoveries in order to cover them and thus wheedle his way into the TV anchor job he wants. I think we can all agree this represents a catastrophic failure of imagination on every level.

But in a way, that's the point of the movie. What happens when you hand a twit ultimate power without knowledge or responsibility? You get retarded buffonery, hurt feelings, riots, wars and stock market crashes. Sounds like America to me. That's Bruce Almighty.