starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Lisa Ann Walter, Steven Carell, Nora Dunn, and Tony Bennett as himself
written by Steven Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekerk
directed by Tom Shadyac
This movie was recommended to my be a friend in Canada months ago and it took until now for it to come out on VHS video in Japan and for me to watch it. I usually feel just so-so about Jim Carrey. He is often too annoying and manic for my taste, but sometimes I like his work. Bruce Almighty is an example of the latter. For the first time since seeing Steve Oedekerk’s comedy Kung Pow (in which he also starred) last year I laughed out loud. (Incidentally, Steve Oedekerk is one of the writers of this script.)
Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a human features field reporter for Channel 7 Eyewitness News in Buffalo, New York who yearns to move upward in his profession to occupy the prestigious news anchor desk, which will be vacated soon. He feels gravely, unfairly stymied in his dream, and ends up cursing God - a common enough phenomenon among humans - in his frustration after the job is awarded to a colleague for whom he has little respect. God responds to his curses and challenges. He calls Bruce on his pager and invites him to a meeting. Bruce goes to the appointed place and time and the Almighty appears in the form of Morgan Freeman impersonating a janitor. Unremarkable, like George Burns playing God as an old man in a baseball cap. God transfers all His omnipotent powers to Bruce to let Bruce have a go at the affairs of God. Of course, he can’t. After recovering from his initial disbelief, Bruce sets about with typical American self-centered hedonism using his new powers mostly for his own personal benefit while the world descends into more than its usual chaos around him. By the end of the film Bruce is appropriately humbled, and God re-takes control - or, rather, not “control,” but His place in the scheme of things - once more.
One point the movie makes is that God does not have control over our affairs because of the operation of Free Will among us. Of course, this is a centuries old lesson that remains chronically under-appreciated and misunderstood. George Burns made the same point two decades ago in Oh, God. He’s not big on miracles, he said. They get in the way of things, and there’s usually too much to clean up afterwards.
About prayer, most people pray selfishly. We are taught (or think that we are taught) to pray for what we desire. Or, we pray for assistance - assistance out of situations we put/have found ourselves in, or for assistance in an endeavor for which we have failed to properly prepare ourselves, etc. It would not/does not surprise me that most people think of prayer as asking God for those things that they want/need. This has always struck me as precocious selfishness, because God already knows what we want/need - even better than we do ourselves - so it is more than insulting to spend time asking Him for it. But that is in fact a recognized form of prayer. There are other forms of prayer, as well. Off the top of my head I can think of a few of them: prayers of thanksgiving (benediction); prayers of praise (doxology); prayers of intervention and intercession; and more.
I thought of other movies featuring God. Not just Jesus movies like Mel Gibson’s recent The Passion of the Christ, Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ, Superstar, or Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, but movies like Oh, God, starring George Burns, and Dogma, starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Even the James Stewart classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, which most people probably think of as a Christmas movie only.
One final note about this movie: when my brothers and I were in elementary school in Guelph we spent a lot of time watching Buffalo’s Channel 7 on TV. We watched The Commander Tom cartoon show daily. And, I still remember the weatherman, Irv Weinstein. I guess both of them are long since retired now.