Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) sees his life as mediocre. Self-involved and immature, he loves his longtime girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Aniston), but has never gotten around to proposing. His job as a tv reporter in Buffalo, New York, doesn't satisfy him. When he is denied the only thing he truly covets, an anchor spot, his simmering discontent boils over. Bruce accuses God of being negligent, even sadistic.
That's when God (Morgan Freeman) challenges Bruce to do better. And so Bruce Nolan becomes God for a time—only to discover that omnipotence ain't all it's cracked up to be.
I went to this screening with some trepidation. Although Jim Carrey is undeniably gifted, a commercial impetus tends to move his sort of talent beyond farce into caricature—not within my comedic tastes.
But Carrey won me over with his puppyish eagerness to please. He manages to be at once a consummate performer and all heart. Maybe the film works because the concept Carrey is trying to get across is larger than his larger-than-life persona. Or maybe it's his strong desire to have us truly listen, so certain is he that if we pay attention, we'll come away with a grain of truth. Or it could be that when someone writes a love note to Yahweh and wants so badly to share it, it's hard to turn away.
Make no mistake: Bruce Almighty is Judeo-Christian to its bones. Even a gift of prayer beads from Bruce's girlfriend can't quite bestow on the film that glossy "all religions are one" hue. After all, with God the Father represented by the venerable Morgan Freeman; with grace embodied by the all-loving, all-forgiving, faithful-to-the-end girlfriend; and with the Holy Spirit writing on the cardboard placards of a homeless man, it would be tough to argue that ...1
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When the movie “Bruce Almighty” came out, the first thing we noticed was how many film critics were angry at the spiritual ending of this flick. So we decided to turn the tables on the critics and make them the issue. It worked. Our news release landed William Donohue on TV and it was discussed on the celebrity page of New York newspapers. Here’s how Donohue framed the issue:
“Louis Giovino, the Catholic League’s director of communications, came to work today expecting to see ‘Bruce Almighty’; the film has comedian Jim Carrey playing God. But then I noticed that so many movie critics were upset with the religious-laden ending to the flick. This made me very happy. Indeed, it made my day. Consider the following:
- Miami Herald: It “lacks the insane, anything-goes energy this premise deserved” and that’s because the director wants “to protect the feel-good fuzzies awaiting the final reel.” It also has an “insufferably schmaltzy, marshmallow ending.”
- New York Times: It has a “preachy, goody-goody conclusion.”
- Pitch Weekly (Kansas City): “By the time this comedy hits the top of its arc, Bruce has to pay the piper.” Which means that regrettably the film closes with “a surge of spiritual uplift.”
- Salon.com: “Given America’s religious climate” the director “didn’t want to risk offending anybody.”
- Saint Paul Pioneer Press: The movie was fine until it “switches, getting all ‘Patch Adams’ on us with an uplifting sermon on the importance of praying every day.”
- Rocky Mountain News: It ends with “a purifying third-act plunge into a font of sentiment.” It is unfortunate that “a reasonably funny comedy genuflects at the altar of director Frank Capra.”
- Newsday: “Unfortunately, religious fervor moves in and sinks the last 20 minutes.” Also, “You don’t have to be an atheist or an ACLU attorney to be creeped out by the movie’s lip-service spirituality, which panders to the common denominator….”
- AP: “The tone turns from wacky to preachy,” so much so that the movie “couldn’t keep this lapsed Catholic from praying that the film would end.”
“Isn’t it nice to know what offends movie critics these days?”