The article chooses from New York Times

Niceness Counts in Ark-Building, Too

Evan Almighty," in which Steve Carell, playing a newly elected congressman from Buffalo, is commanded by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark, is a movie far less interesting than its premise. It is also slightly less interesting than its hugely popular predecessor, "Bruce Almighty," which starred Jim Carrey. But there is nonetheless a fruitful franchise in the making here, a potentially endless series of movies with popular, sometimes naughty comedians acting out wholesome modern-day versions of well-known Bible stories.

Think of the possibilities: In "Stan Almighty," Mr. Freeman tells Sacha Baron Cohen to kill off one of his kids (whichever Breslin, Culkin or Fanning is furthest from puberty); in "Doug Almighty," Will Ferrell is swallowed by a computer-generated whale; and in "Jane Almighty," a virginal Sarah Silverman finds herself pregnant with Mr. Freeman's child. Eventually, Dave Chappelle will fight the battle of Jericho and the culture wars will have officially ended.

Meanwhile we can ponder the lessons of "Evan Almighty," which combines bland religiosity and timid environmentalism into a soothing Sunday-school homily about the importance of being nice. As I understand it, the God of the Old Testament is a pretty tough deity, but it is not in Mr. Freeman's nature to be wrathful or jealous. His God is more a practical joker than a smiter, and his intervention in human affairs (and in the American legislative process) more therapeutic than punitive. 

At first, Evan is a twitchy, gung-ho careerist - for some reason, Mr. Carell seems to be trying out a Greg Kinnear impersonation - who drives a Hummer, neglects his family and falls under the unsavory sway of a corrupt committee chairman (John Goodman). Then the Lord appears, followed by truckloads of wood (funny, I always thought hickory barky was the traditional ark-building material) and hundreds of animals. The birds relieve themselves first on Mr. Carell, then on Mr. Goodman, who is also spat upon by an alpaca.

Both men retain their good humor. Lauren Graham, who plays Evan's wife, Joan, has a harder time finding anything amusing to do, and the couple's three sons (Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips and Jimmy Bennett) barely register. A gaggle of gifted comic actors - Wanda Sykes, Molly Shannon, Jonah Hill - read their lines and cash their checks, and Jon Stewart has a cameo. 

Mr. Carell, once again, encounters some hair-removal issues. Otherwise, most of the humor consists of cute biblical references (Ms. Shannon's character is a real estate agent named Eve Adams), carpentry slapstick (Mr. Carell smites his thumb with a hammer or falls off a beam) and animal gags. There is not much in the way of wit, emotional complication or suspense, and as Evan's initial skepticism turns to righteousness he seems to fall into a trance. If you feel yourself doing the same, chances are it is the result of boredom, not beatitude.







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