Ryan Owen 25/07/2007
Making the step up from a scene stealing supporting actor to a legitimate Hollywood leading man is a notoriously difficult task that many promising actors have struggled with in the past. While both Will Ferrell and Jack Black have done so with spectacular results in recent years even their leading men resumes aren't glitteringly consistent, for every Anchorman there's a Bewitched and for every School of Rock there's a Shallow Hal or several other examples. So while Steve Carell finally made the step up with great results in The 40-year old virgin and Little Miss Sunshine perhaps it was inevitable that one of his star vehicles would eventually flounder.
Perhaps the main difference of Evan Almighty compared to his first two lead roles is that he doesn't have the stellar supporting cast that he did with Virgin or Sunshine, while there he had helping hands from the wonderful Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and in the latter an award-winning performance from Alan Arkin, here he is all on his lonesome, and it shows. His three sons are limited to monosyllabic responses of disappointment, his wife a weary straight-faced doubter and main comic support, if you can call it that from two embarrassingly cartoon-like roles from John Michael Higgins and the horribly wasted John Goodman, only Wanda Sykes provides multiple chickles but even her constant barrage of sarcasm grows tired. Carell cuts a lonely figure for the duration of the film, while the project as a whole seems a disaster of biblical proportions; Carell's performance is hardly shocking. While at the same time it's never going to feature as a career defining moment, his talent is still abundantly clear in his ability to raise laughs from the most meagre of comic sources, he's thankfully funny even if the film is not.
That indeed is the main problem with Evan Almighty is that it just isn't all that funny, where as its older brother Bruce was an entirely refreshing comedic conception this tentative sequel relies far too heavily on cheap sight gags, immature physical comedy and the hope that the talented Carell can carry the whole project with the improvised sequences he is famed for, in short it is a poorly and lazily written script. This is after-all the most expensive comedy ever made; it's just that while a great deal of effort was being ploughed into the extensive CGI sequences, at its inception someone forgot to include any lasting gags, and please for the love of God don't mention the dance.
Evan Almighty never, ever seemed like a good idea and the end result only cements the truth behind this skepticism however, in a way this film that everyone expected to be poor became more about its leading man than the actual project. Steve Carell's is the true rising star of American comedy, one whose popularity is ever growing and in a way Evan Almighty is more about his ability to at least stay afloat while all others and the film as a whole sinks around him, and come out the other end to produce far, far better in the future, something he manages to achieve…just.
Cast: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman, John Michael Higgins
Screenwriter: Steve Oedekerk
Running Time: 95mins