"What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?"--the poignant lyrics from Joan Osbourne's song "One of Us" is just the right tune for Bruce Almighty. In fact after being endowed with all of God's powers the film's hero Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) actually sings it proudly. Now you may be asking how one small TV news reporter from Buffalo New York could have obtained such omnificent skills. Well it seems Bruce hasn't had much luck of late. He hates his job as the news station's wacky "human interest" reporter and desperately wants to become an anchor so he can climb up the ladder. He complains about it hourly to anyone who'll listen including his very patient and loving girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston). Things get worse however when a rival colleague is hired as the anchor instead. Bruce loses his job after making some unsavory on-air comments; his car after crashing into a streetlight pole and almost even his girl after he tells her how mediocre his life is. All this reduces Bruce to one angry man who rages against God for all his woes. Enter God (Morgan Freeman) who is frankly just plain tired of being blamed for Bruce's troubles. He gives Bruce the option to be the Almighty One for one week--and Bruce runs with it making sure to right a few wrongs in his life first. But what about the rest of the world? All those prayers from people in need? In predictable fashion our man Bruce quickly realizes what an awesome responsibility it is being God especially when it means losing the one person he loves the most.
Ah isn't it nice to have the good old Jim Carrey back? Except now he seems to be a new and improved Jim Carrey. After failed attempts at drama in films such as The Majestic and Man on the Moon going back to his comedic roots is a smart move. But Carrey has learned some valuable lessons since his Ace Ventura days and has been able to harness his manic energy into a more subtle performance for Bruce Almighty. Simply put he has matured like a fine wine--but is still as fresh as ever. As the sweet put-upon Grace Aniston complements Carrey nicely. Grace is definitely the straight gal but Aniston uses her own finely tuned comedic and reactionary skills to distinguish herself from any other pretty face. And Freeman is absolutely perfect as God--honestly no one could have filled the part better. The actor has such benevolence in his face that when he tells us he is the Lord Almighty watching over us you immediately feel at ease. Another standout performance is Steve Carell as Bruce's rival Evan Baxter especially in the one scene where an offstage Bruce with his Godlike powers sabotages Evan's on-air anchoring. Carell brilliantly mimics Carrey's unique facial contortions--a feat that must have been very difficult to do--to hilarious effect.
Obviously with Bruce Almighty Carrey wants to recapture some of that same magic he had with his 1997 hit Liar Liar by using the same director Tom Shadyac and playing the same sort of callous character who needs a rude awakening to make him a better person. For the most part it works. Shadyac knows just the right moments to pull the punches and allow Carrey full rein of the screen--and then when to pull the comedian back. The two have a nice symbiotic relationship. The problem with the film lies in the story which really falls into some lame predictability. Of course Bruce is going to screw up and nearly ruin the world with his selfishness--and in turn lose his girlfriend because we're told the one thing God can't mess with is a human being's free will. Then of course Bruce is going to come to his senses and start to help people even sacrificing his own feelings for Grace just so she can be happy and thus proving to us all the reason why God picked him in the first place. Awwww. Yes all the ducks are in their rows but Bruce Almighty manages to crack you up anyway.