starring Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, John Michael Higgins, Jimmy Bennett and Wanda Sykes
screenplay by Steve Oedekerk
directed by Tom Shadyac
In this sequel to the Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman movie Bruce Almighty, Steve Carell plays Evan Baxter, a freshman U.S. Congressman from Buffalo, New York, elected on the strength of his slogan “Change the World.” God (Morgan Freeman) appears and commands him to build an Ark. And he does. Everyone thinks he’s crazy. Predictably, his family leaves him (but later returns) and he loses his job on the premise of mental instability. (It is a reflection of the low regard that religion has in today’s America, despite the frequent invocations of it by politicians there and the political acumen of the Christian Right.)
There are a few glaring errors in the film that I expect an American audience would simply not recognize. First, praying for the things you want is not proper prayer. It might not be prayer at all, or rather, some kind of Satanic anti-prayer. It is plain selfishness. God already knows what you want, so it is ridiculous, not to mention morally offensive to ask him for it. Instead, in prayer we ought to thank the Lord for what we have, and to direct our prayers outward, for the welfare of others. Second, a joke is made about “changing the world” through one Act of Random Kindness (A-R-K, hence the Ark) at a time. That is completed wrong. The message should not be acts of random kindness, but Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). Do you think it is the same thing? NO! Random kindness is not a virtue, but a vice, comparable to some kind of terrorism (to use the currently popular parlance). Random kindness is whimsical, undirected, and even unintentional. It is immoral and evil. But random acts of deliberate, intended kindness - now there is something to crow about. Yes, indeed.
Most Americans - even those who do attend church - do not read the Bible, and certainly do not read theology, so it is through the media - movies, magazines, etc. - that they get their theological ideas. This film is a reflection of it and a participant in it, to no good end. Wanda Syke’s is a very interesting black comedienne. Her character makes the interesting and correct observation that Congressman Baxter (a white man) has turned himself into Noah from the “white man’s Bible,” reminding us how Caucasian-ethnocentric our Western interpretation of Scripture has become.
The movie was cute, but not great. I like Steve Oedekerk (the man who gave us Kung Pow), but Steve Carell (The 40 Year Old Virgin) is too much of a geeky white guy for me - a genuine honky. I totally disagree with the unctious environmental claims by Tom Shadyak. The environmental fad is getting too out of hand.