Most expensive comedy cheap with the laughs

2008-10-02 08:05

EVAN Almighty - it's the the most expensive comedy film ever made, apparently. That sort of claim to fame usually is a good indicator to stay away.

Admittedly there are a few chuckles in the film. With that much money spent, you would certainly hope so. Evan Almighty cost $200 million to make (how many square metres of rain forest could have been saved for that much?) and has about, at a generous estimate, 10 reasonable laughs, so that works out at some $20 million a laugh. The maths just don't seem to add up on this one.

Even more offensive are the not-so-subtle preachy undertones of the film, presumably to not get on the wrong side of the religious right in America, who would surely object to a film trivialising God and the story of Noah's ark if there wasn't a moral message to it all. Or better still, a few messages interspersed through the movie.

At a $200 million cost to make the film, a sum of money that could surely have been better spent on, say, anti-Bush documentaries or films detailing the suffering of the thousands of U.S. soldiers maimed in Iraq, it seems a bit rich to be preached to by Universal studios. Even worse, the movie house deigned to spend a whopping $25 million on an eco-awareness campaign, the real aim of which appears to have been to promote Evan Almighty.

This preachy side to the film is not the only irritant. Steve Carrell, as a U.S. congressman called Evan Baxter, tasked by God to build an ark to save people and animals from an impending flood, is a strong comic actor and provides the vast majority of the laughs. He is surrounded by a decidedly mediocre cast, though, apart from Morgan Freeman - the only actor left over from the previous film, Bruce Almighty - and John Goodman.

The congressman's assistants are nothing more than average deliverers of half-funny one-liners, and Baxter's wife and children are sweet to the point of gross irritation, particularly his three overly-cute sons.

With so much spent on special effects and so little on hiring good actors, this comedy lacks the personality to carry off its ambitious undertaking.

The links of the sequel to the previous film, which starred Jim Carrey, are so tenuous that it is hard to identify any real relationship between the two. Evan Almighty might as well have stuck to the writers' original title of The Passion of the Ark and made a whole separate movie.

Freeman is the same old tired, dulcet southern-toned, benevolent, wise adviser and comforter to white people he has been in almost all his films. One has to wonder how he never gets tired of playing the role, though with the amount of money he's made from it, perhaps it's understandable.

Goodman is a caricatured disappointment as the arch-villain bad-guy congressman Baxter comes up against.

This expensive, overblown, comedy is not funny or clever enough to grip an adult sense of humour. It takes a juvenile approach, has lots of animals and bird-dropping jokes and plenty of CGI effects, so it will probably appeal to children and young teens. Ultimately, though, it might take a real miracle for Evan Almighty not to be be a financial and cinematic flop.

**

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