Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty (12A)

The question has been asked since time immemorial: what would you do if you were God? So it’s only right that Hollywood has latched onto the idea and built a movie around it.

Of course, given Hollywood’s own self-imposed code of good taste and conduct, no mere mortal could be the man with the big white beard, so they made him an Everyman instead – a normal bloke who happens to pick up God’s powers for a week.

And God himself? He’s played by the wonderful Morgan Freeman, so that’s alright.

Jim Carrey gets to play the ordinary Joe – in this case a TV news reporter who, after the mother of all bad days, curses the Almighty for making his life miserable.

So God takes up the challenge and offers Bruce Nolan (Carrey) the chance to do His good work for seven days and see what doing a job – THE job – is really all about. Suddenly Bruce, having determined that he’s not off his trolley, finds himself lumbered with the problems of the world while the big G heads off for a well-deserved spot of R&R. He soon finds TV reporting is much easier.

There is a lot of pretty basic comedy wrapped inside this interesting little diversion of a movie but, like almost everything he touches, Carrey enlivens it. From a spectacularly public implosion when passed over for a job to the moment when he takes revenge on a supercilious work rival by forcing him to spout gibberish on air, this is Carrey at his most typical and most humorous.

For his first miracle he parts not the Red Sea but the red soup as he tests his powers in a diner. He draws the moon closer to Earth to impress girlfriend Jennifer Aniston, plus he surreptitiously gives her bigger breasts when she’s not looking. To cap it all he pleasures her purely through the power of thought (now there’s a gift…).

Then he engineers for a meteor to hit the earth so he can report on it live as it happens for his station. He also locates the corpse of Jimmy Hoffa.

Becoming Mr Exclusive means he recovers the ground he lost during his on-air rant and meltdown. And, while he does this, God watches benignly and smiles the indulgent smile of a parent observing a not-quite mischievous child.

In the hands of Tom (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) Shadyac Carrey has returned to the director who gave him his first massive hit, and it shows. With the fading Robin Williams this could have turned into the same type of comedy emetic as Patch Adams (which was, incidentally, directed by Shadyac). Instead Carrey makes it real. Sure, it’s saccharine coated. But it’s fun. And that’s more than could be said for Patch Adams.

What’s more, Carrey has fun. Whether it’s gurning his way through his revenge on a fellow newscaster or teaching a dog how to pee at the toilet, he embodies the Everyman he is trying so hard to play straight – almost.

With support from Morgan Freeman – a laughing, laid-back God in a crisp white suit – and Jennifer Aniston as girlfriend Grace. As Carrey’s foil Aniston misses out on the gags except in reaction, but her years in Friends show as she faces Carrey’s outrageous mugging with a creditable straight face.

Carrey has now reached a point where he can comfortably play serious and plain daft in the same film without upsetting the dynamic. Bruce Almighty is that film – a near perfect cinematic soldering of laughs and philosophising in which the frailty of Man is illustrated without ever resorting to fire and brimstone.

Star rating: ***

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