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BRUCE ALMIGHTY, 2007
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BRUCE ALMIGHTY MOVIE POSTERBRUCE ALMIGHTY, 2003
Movie Reviews

Directed by Tom Shadyac
Starring Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Philip Baker Hall, Catherine Bell, Nora Dunn
Review by Trish Koutrodimos



SYNOPSIS:

God gives His powers to a cranky news reporter who thinks he can do His job better than Thee.

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REVIEW:

The first thing Bruce Nolan (Carey) says when he stands in front of a camera is, “God, why do you hate me?”. Being naturally comedic, he is trapped in covering the cheesy local news while he craves the groundbreaking stories that his despicable coworker, Evan Baxter, gets. He’s convinced his goofy stories are putting a glass ceiling between him and the newly available anchor position he desperately desires. However, his luck changes when he’s granted the chance to cover a live news story – like he’s being tested for a live anchor situation. On top of the world, Bruce is about to make his live debut when it’s announced that Evan Baxter has been named the new anchor. The cameras roll on Bruce who stands frozen and mortified. Finally, he speaks. It’s evident that he’s snapped as he ridicules his elderly interviewee, mocks Evan “Back Stabber” Baxter and laughs at his miserable life. He ends the broadcast with a forceful F-word and the live feed is cut. Unsurprisingly, Bruce is thrown out of the WKBW tv station – literally on his butt. To make things worse, when the good guy in him stops a poor man from being hassled by gangsters, they attack him.

Bruised and beaten, Bruce arrives home to his small apartment. His loving girlfriend, Grace (Aniston), exclaims, “Thank God you’re alright!” and Bruce instantly jumps on the idea of God helping him: “God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass and I’m the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted but He’d rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm!”. Still, Grace persists, hugging Bruce – she’s just glad he’s okay. But Bruce fires up: “Okay? … I’m not okay with a mediocre job! I’m not okay with a mediocre apartment! I’m not okay with a mediocre life!” and he hits the photo album that she’s been compiling of their life together across the room. Grace sobs at his perception of their “mediocre life” and guilt-laden, Bruce storms out of the apartment. Driving, Bruce prays to God to give him a signal. Suddenly, he passes a road signal proclaiming “Caution Ahead”. He eagerly prays for a sign. Instantly, a truck laden with signs (“Stop”, “Dead End”, “Wrong Way”) pulls up in front of him. The truck’s slow speed only irritates him. Finally, he fervently prays for a miracle. Then his car crashes into a lamppost. Bruce jumps out of the car and furiously roars up to the Heavens, “The only one around here, not doing His job, is you!”, “Smite me, O mighty smiter!”. He finally yells “Answer me!” and his beeper goes off. On it the number 555 0123 is displayed. “Sorry,” Bruce says, unknowingly meaningful, “Don’t know you. Wouldn’t call you if I did”.

The next morning, Bruce awakes alone in his bed and the beeper goes off: 555 0123. He chucks it out the window and it’s run over by a car. Leaving the house, he notices the broken beeper on the ground – impossibly it’s beeping. He picks it up: 555 0123. He calls the number and an automated message describes Bruce’s predicament and then states “Is your name Bruce?” then come on down to Omni Presents. Arriving at the large building, he enters and sees on the directory that all business is conducted on Level 7. He checks this with the janitor who asks Bruce for help in mopping the entire floor. Taken aback, Bruce jokes that he’s free on the 7th at 7pm. He climbs the stairs to Level 7 and meets the electrician – who is the janitor from before. Bruce marvels at how he beat him upstairs and turns to leave when the electrician/janitor peels off his jumpsuit to reveal a glorious white suit. Bruce laughs and jokes that it must be one hell of a Christmas party here. The man states that Bruce always was funny and starts describing Bruce’s life to him. Bruce is horrified but the man explains, “I’m God”. Bruce laughs but when his hand sprouts seven fingers, he believes! “You’ve been doing a lot of complaining about me,” God chastises. “You think you can do [My job] better so here’s your chance”. Freaked out, Bruce leaves. Stopping at a diner to collect himself, he orders tomato soup. Holding his hands above the bowl of red liquid he mightily parts the ‘red sea’. He is God! Suddenly, God appears next to him and explains the rules: 1) You can’t tell anyone you’re God, and 2) You can’t mess with free will. He leaves the world in Bruce’s hands and departs.

Returning home, he secretly uses his powers to orchestrate a sinfully divine make-up night for himself and Grace – he pulls the moon closer to their balcony, creates stars to accessorise it, lights candles with his hands, and makes Grace’s boobs bigger. The next morning he awakes with a cacophony of voices in his head. Shaking them off he goes into the kitchen where the tv announces that due to “unusual lunar activity” a tsunami has devastated a nation. Speeding off in a sleek new car he’s created, he sings “Yeah, yeah … I am great” (to the tune of ‘What if God was One of Us’), to cover a news story he’s conjured up with his powers – he uncovers the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, buried with a complete set of dental records and birth certificate. He sells the story to WKBW and gets his job back. From then on he uses his powers to break story after story until his hot fame earns him the title, “Mr Exclusive”. To put the cherry on the cake, Bruce humiliates Evan on live news – he makes his voice squeaky, changes the prompter so Evan reads out, “I do the cha-cha like a little girl … I like-a do … da cha-cha”, makes him fart and blurt out an aggressive Russian-esk language.

Days later, Grace is taken by Bruce to the Blue Palm – the town’s most romantic restaurant where she and Bruce had their first date – he’s going to propose! Bruce kneels beside Grace who starts to tear up. He whispers, “I got anchor”. Startled, Grace listens as Bruce rattles on about how Evan was fired. Suddenly, the cacophony of voices returns to Bruce’s head and he mistakes them for the restaurant guests. He complains loudly and, leaving an embarrassed Grace, flees outside. God appears and explains that the voices are prayers – how many people have you helped this week? Bruce stammers over excuses. Later, Bruce, overwhelmed by prayers, declares “Yes, to all!”.

On Friday night, WKBW throw Bruce a congratulatory party. Grace isn’t present and Bruce, in the midst of his self-loving atmosphere, phones her and begs her to come. The guests at the party are all reveling at their sudden good fortune – their tax stock tripled, they’ve grown taller or lost 47 pounds on the Krispy Kreme diet! In a bedroom, Susan, one of Bruce’s co-anchors, who up until Bruce’ promotion has ignored him, corners Bruce and kisses him. Bruce looks up and sees Grace. Dislocating himself from Susan, he runs into the street after her. Grace sarcastically spits he could fix this by giving her money, not idiotic crap like marriage and babies. She states she’s moving out and drives away. Bruce’s ego cops a blow – how could she leave the Omega? God appears. Bruce asks how he can make Grace love him again without affecting free will. God admits there is no way.

Bruce’s first night as anchor on the news arrives but, just before he can finish a sentence, the station’s power goes down – power shortages are occurring due to the meteor that had hit (one of Bruce’s ‘miracle’ stories). Bruce claps the power back on and starts again. But again the power fails – a mass protest against the lottery is roaring: since 11 000 people won, each person only gets $17. Celestial events are predicting the end of the world. There’s a riot outside the station – the whole town’s gone nuts! Bruce finally realises what he’s done. He leaves the newsroom and heads out into the street. Pillaging, fire, destruction – it’s hell on earth. A mass billboard of himself as Mr Exclusive falls down and his ‘hair’ is set on fire (making him look like the Devil). Bruce runs to Omni Presents. God is cleaning the floor as the janitor and hands him a mop – it’s the 7th at 7pm. Together, Bruce and God mop the entire floor. “It’s a wonderful thing”, God says, “No matter how filthy something gets, you can always clean it right up”. Bruce admits he only gave people what they wanted to which God answers, “But since when does anyone have a clue about what they want?”. He tells Bruce to be the miracle he wants to see.

Meeting the bane of his hubris and tasting the sweet pie of humility, he starts to turn his attitude around, beginning with Grace – he starts to work on the photo album, a symbol of their life. He pulls the plug on the automatic ‘yes’ prayer responses and finally, confesses to Evan that he’s been an ass and gives him his job back. Bruce accepts his purpose as the funny smalltime news guy. Later, Debbie comes to his apartment for Grace’s things and Bruce hands her the finished photo album. Moved, Debbie admits to him that Grace prays – mostly for him. When she leaves, Bruce appears outside Grace’s window and watches her tearfully pray: “Please God … I still love him … But I don’t want to love him anymore. I don’t want to hurt anymore. Please. Help me forget. Please, help me to let him go”. Bruce realises when it’s too late that he’s taken the thing one that matters most to him for granted: Grace.

Drained of life itself, Bruce walks the roads in the rain. He kneels down and cries out that he doesn’t want to be God anymore, he wants God to decide what’s right for him. And just as he cries “I surrender to your will!” he’s run over by a truck. He awakens in total whiteness. He faces God. He’s dead. God asks him to pray. Bruce rattles off a shallow prayer about world peace. No, God objects, what really matters to you? Bruce gasps, “Grace”. “You want her back?” God asks. “No,” Bruce admits, surprisingly. (Quick note: for those who have not yet seen this movie, skip Bruce’s next few lines of dialogue, they should be experienced first hand).

Bruce (with tears to God): No. I want her to be happy. No matter what that means. I want her to find someone who’ll treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who’ll see her always as I do now. Through Your eyes.

“Now that’s a prayer,” God says before shocking Bruce back to life. He awakens in a hospital bed covered in scratches and bandages. Grace walks in and, crying, hugs him. “I don’t know what I would have done,” she weeps as she holds onto him and Bruce smiles, knowing that he now has Grace eternally.

What can you say about this film? It’s funny. It’s heart warming. It covers God, love, egotism and monkeys coming out of people’s cans. Everything really. It relays a genuine plot about Bruce Nolan, a man who craves anchor fame so bad that if it was chocolate cake it’d be all over his face. Bruce’s story runs along the bones of humankind’s typical attitude to God – when things don’t go Bruce’s way, he assumes God is ignoring him (even when He sends the signals, signs and even beeper calls when he asks for them!) and only shouts to God when he wants something. He doesn’t acknowledge God’s current blessings or that His ways are higher than his. Bruce’s life is fine at the beginning of the film – he has his purpose, using his gift of humour to bring people joy, and what is ACTUALLY the most important thing in his life, Grace, his genuine and loving girlfriend – it’s his egotistic dissatisfaction that trips him up. It’s this meaty meaningful plot that doesn’t make this film just another comedy.

But please, the comedy is a’plenty. Jim Carrey is back in what I think is his most well suited role since Liar Liar. Carrey’s at his best as the King of wacky, outrageous, natural comedy. Few roles give Carrey the freedom to let his comedy genius – Ace Ventura being the best example, followed by The Mask, the Riddler in Batman Forever and Dumb and Dumber. While it’s still present, it’s slightly more constrained, in Liar Liar, as it is in Bruce Almighty. Still, had Bruce not been played by Carrey, few would have had the ability to pull off the constant hilarity and sillyness that the role demands. However, the fact that Carey was constrained at parts by Bruce’s journalistic professionalism I think gives him room to pull off the serious scenes – especially the tear-jerking scene at the end where he tells God, when he’s dead, that he wants Grace to be happy, even if it’s with another man (the lines I quoted before are some of the most poignant lines I’ve ever heard, surprising for a comedy). So there you go, meaningful and hilarious – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. “It’s guuuuuuuuude!”

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