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It's the return of Jim Carrey, but is it the Jim Carrey who makes serious films, or the Jim Carrey who talked out of his butt in Ace Ventura? While Bruce Almighty is being sold as a return to slapstick, silly comedy for Carrey, it's more mature and serious than that. Carrey, director Tom Shayac and writers Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, and Steve Oedekerk have created a tribute to Frank Capra that mixes humor, schmaltz and faith in a potent combination that will evoke many different emotional reactions.
Carrey plays Bruce Nolan - a Buffalo TV reporter who desperately wants to be his station's next news anchor, but he's stuck doing silly, human-interest stories. Finally, Bruce just can't take it anymore and unleashes his fury at God. He can't understand why a good person like him doesn't get his share of the American Dream and the success that he has been struggling to achieve. It doesn't seem fair, and Bruce thinks it is a neglectful God's fault. God (Morgan Freeman) decides to give Bruce a chance to show him how the job should be done, and grants the power of God, and the responsibilities, to the TV star.
Can Bruce handle it? What are the ramifications?
After starting as a silly, humorous film, Bruce Almighty dares to become a serious examination of faith, love, family and a whole bunch of heavy subjects that might scare off most filmmakers and ticket buyers. It's one of the few movies in recent history to take on religious subjects, but does so in a way that won't scare anyone off. Koren, O'Keefe and Oedekerk avoid a Sunday school lesson, but still raise questions that have probably occurred to most people. It's deftly handled in a non-preachy way that slowly evolves rather than smacking you across the face. Much like the classic Capra films like It's A Wonderful Life (heavily referenced in Bruce Almighty), it ropes us in at the beginning with quick-witted, snappy dialogue and takes us on the same road to possible redemption that the main character travels along.
Ultimately, Bruce Almighty is a film you will like because of Jim Carrey. He is today's Everyman, and someone that audiences can relate to. Carrey brings back the rubber faced comedic abilities that first made him famous, but also has the ability to draw upon his dramatic skills as the movie gets more serious. At just over the age of 40, he can't do Ace Ventura anymore, because that would be pitiful and embarrassing. Carrey shows us his mature side, without disappointing fans.
Freeman and Jennifer Aniston, as Bruce's girlfriend Grace, also put in strong performances that help add depth to the movie. Freeman is the coolest God since George Burns and proves he is one of the few actors who can project gravitas while also being liked. Aniston stands up well against Carrey and also gets a chance to show some dramatic skills. They make a nice team.
Bruce Almighty is a solid film that lags in the middle, but works out well in the end. Grade: B+
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