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Evan Almighty (2007) -vs- Bruce Almighty (2003)

Evan Almighty -vs- Bruce Almighty

Lauren Zabel, Contributing WriterThe Smackdown

People like to talk about having a “personal” relationship with God. Maybe that’s why both these films bring in audiences — the chance to watch the main characters actually have that relationship on screen in a literal sense.

In the wish-fulfillment saga of Bruce Almighty, weatherman Bruce goes into an on-air meltdown followed by a rant to God about how He’s doing a miserable job. Now, in the sequel, Evan Almighty, Evan prays to the Man Upstairs for good luck on his first day as a congressman — and does it as if it’s just another quick cellphone call. Both Bruce and Evan end up in a one-on-one with God, but it’s an open question as to whether this divine intervention was enough to float either film. You’ve probably heard already that Evan Almighty had the highest budget for a comedy in film history. Money well spent? We’ll see…

The Challenger

Evan Almighty is the newest movie from the creative team of director Tom Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk, who previously collaborated on Bruce Almighty. Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell) is a Buffalo news-anchor-turned-Congressman (he was in the original) who moves his family to Washington, D.C., for his new career in politics. Evan got elected through his campaign promise of ‘Change the World,’ which seems like one tall order for Evan to fill. Even though Evan doesn’t even have a new iPhone, God still answers his call. Connection made, God personally assigns him the biblical duty of building an ark in time for an imminent flood. Naturally, Evan would rather tend to the people’s business, as he defines it, rather than ark-building, but Morgan Freeman’s God is an unusually persuasive constituent. You try saying “no” to the guy.

The Defending Champion

Bruce Almighty sets up the themes, ideas, and conflicts for its spinoff, Evan Almighty, through its character development. For instance, God (played by Morgan Freeman), is a man in a white suit with incredible patience for Jim Carrey’s self-obsessed Bruce Nolan weatherman. Nolan, his failing career putting significant stress in his life, challenges God to switch responsibilities with him. God, being a whimsical sort and feeling a little bit of career burnout Himself, is up to the challenge and grants Nolan all of His mighty powers. What Nolan comes to realize throughout the film is that being high and mighty has its consequences — like the floundering of his relationship with his girlfriend, Grace, (played by Jennifer Aniston). Bruce might have God’s powers, but it takes him awhile to start acting like Him.

The Scorecard

Both films are set in Buffalo to give their stories that ” it could happen to anybody” feeling. Honestly, both have enough plot holes to float an ark through them. In Evan Almighty, for example, Carell’s Evan needs to build an ark for two of every animal on Earth, like the Bible says, as a way repopulate. So why does the ark only travel from Prestige Ridge in Virginia to Washington, D.C.? Why did these animals appear from nowhere to be transported only a few miles away? Wouldn’t they still happily exist in other parts of the world and not need to be saved? Questions…

In Bruce Almighty, Bruce’s godly powers are only applied in his hometown of Buffalo. We never see him dealing with universal problems which would be expected on a global scale. Instead, Bruce deals with his dog peeing in his apartment and traffic jams on his way to work.

Both Bruce and Evan probably need to be taught a lesson by somebody, if not God, but the results are uneven. Bruce is clearly the more selfish, cursing at God because (shock!) he can’t be a TV anchorman. Oh, boohoo! But Jim Carrey did a better job bringing the comedy out of Bruce. Evan, in contrast, is more the beset guy being screwed with by God. We’ve even seen the complications before — when his facial hair is growing uncontrollably, I’m thinking The Santa Claus.

The one consistently wonderful element of both films is, of course, Morgan Freeman who is just detached and bemused enough to be warm and funny at the same time. I’m not sure about the theology of God appearing in a white suit and spending time with TV personalities and politicians when there are so many more deserving types out there, but that’s the movies, I guess.

Anyway, this is clearly one of those choices where the films are not so great that you simply have to see both of them. Both are humorous films with comically perfect leads, but both require a lot of faith from their viewers to believe in the powers of the Almighty. If you have to pick one, here’s my recommendation:

The Decision

The sequel — despite having more money than God (been saving that one!) thrown at it — is simply not as good as the original creation. Bruce Almighty is hardly perfect, but if you haven’t seen either it or Evan Almighty, my advice is to go for the rental now and see how you feel later. Even in its worst moments, Bruce Almighty still manages to tiptoe up to creating an atmosphere where one can forgot about the limits of being human and focus on the limitlessness of being God. Evan Almighty is just a story about the ultimate hassle.

About Lauren Zabel 6 Articles
Lauren Zabel grew up in Southern California, the daughter of two screenwriters who took her to the Emmys, helped her punch up a class essay or two and even cast her in TV shows. Her Hollywood stardom included a riveting turn as the little Wisconsin girl whose cow Lily was pregnant with an alien hybrid child. She unabashedly will see almost any rom-com with an enthusiasm that is clearly the triumph of hope over experience. But she believes in love and comedy and the idea that one is better served with the other. She is willing to suffer the pain of a bad film so that you won’t have to.

10 Comments on Evan Almighty (2007) -vs- Bruce Almighty (2003)

  1. “Bruce’s godly powers are only applied in his hometown of Buffalo. We never see him dealing with universal problems which would be expected on a global scale.” This is not quite true. We see problems in Japan after Bruce pulled the moon closer to Earth. Granted, he himself didn’t hear about, but the definitely mention it on TV, and Grace hears about it.

    • *they*

  2. This message is from GOD. In reality, I always preferred Evan over that idiot of a Bruce. There is a great amount of difference seen in both of these characters.

    In Evan Almighty, Evan is supposed to be a clean freak. The movie is not dirty unlike Bruce Almighty. Evan becomes New York’s Noah and he builds an ARK- One ACT of RANDOM KINDNESS at a time. He saves most of the people of New York by ensuring that they board the ark. All the animals also respect him so they follow him.

    On the other hand, in Bruce Almighty, Bruce is a screwed up maniac who intends to use his “powers” aimlessly for fun, only for his own good but not in order to change the world. As actor Jim Carrey acts in it the movie is really uninteresting. It is extremely dirty with extreme usage of bad words. He also moves his face to much which makes him look even more hideous than he his. Also, in this movie Bruce gets powers (as I mentioned earlier). In Evan Almighty, Evan does not receive any powers but is told to change the world.

    My vote would therefore, obviously be casted towards “Evan Almighty”. I always hated that maniac of a Bruce.

    • Yeah buddy, you prefered Evan Almighty because you watched the Carell’s work Get Smart.

  3. If you are wondering about the age level, or suitability for children, I’d have to say that Evan is more “kid friendly” than Bruce. Bruce had adult topics and situations more so than Evan – things like sex, girlfriends, and, uhm, “anatomical references” are more common in Bruce than in Evan.

  4. Lauren has correctly identified the better film here. I agree that Bruce Almighty was a superior film, although I did enjoy the sequel for the simple fact that Steve Carell is simply hilarious. Stupid story defeated an otherwise enjoyable comedy romp. Bruce rules.

  5. If there’s only one comedy scene that made me wet my pants with hysterical laughter, it’s the moment when Bruce induces Evan to go utterly Looney Tunes while trying to read the news: it’s the moment Steve Carell became a household name, and remains, to date, the single funniest scene in any film I have ever seen.
    Evan Almighty, while trying hard, just didn’t match the original. Even WITH Steve Carell as the lead actor.

  6. hayevery one

  7. Never to be taken in a serious theological or even moral context, Bruce Almighty did have something to say though: we tend to criticize that which we can’t understand. Some food for thought while I was having a couple of good laughs.
    Evan… well, no respect given, no respect returned. Cheap shots and cheap laughs, that’s all I can say.

  8. And, frankly, neither one of these movies was quite as good as “Oh, God” from 1977. George Burns as God, now that’s casting!

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