Higher Movies: Evan Almighty

by Sandra Ostapowich

Did you know that the story of Noah in the Bible is really a love story? A story about people loving each other, believing in each other, working together – side by side, two by two, in pairs, families. It’s true! God said it. Well, Morgan Freeman said it and he’s played God in TWO movies, so it must be at least kinda true. And the ark wasn’t really a ginormous boat floating in a a worldwide flood or anything like that. It was about Noah’s A.R.K. – his Acts of Random Kindness to the critters and people on the boat. Ain’t that precious? If you haven’t been to church in a few years and can’t remember the last time you opened a Bible but vaguely remember a story about Noah – that sounds pretty good, right?

In the wake of the success from its predecessor movie, Bruce Almighty, the writers of Evan Almighty, decided to go for a sequel and actually market it to Christians as a family movie this time. This time, the main character, Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell, also a TV news anchor) has just been elected to the U.S. Congress on the campaign slogan that he will “Change the World!” Evan and his wife, Joan (of Ark, ha ha – get it?) and their three sons move to the outskirts of Washington D.C. to a new and elite housing community in a beautiful Virginia valley.

Well, first, some cliché things start happening around the house. Pairs of critters show up in his yard and follow him around. The cryptic combination of “GEN 6:13” starts pops up all over the place in the movie, clocks, alarms, license plates…). A strange crate full of Old Testament-looking carpentry tools from Alpha Omega Hardware is mysteriously delivered to the front door. A huge pallet of wood is dropped off in his driveway by Go-4-Wood…

That’s where he meets God. Literally. God shows up at his house. Evan wants to change the world, so God picks him to build an ark. You know…like Noah. A flood is coming and he needs to get ready, like Genesis 6:13 says: “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’” I’m really not sure what this verse has to do with anything in the movie though.

Reluctantly, Evan agrees to the task. And the strange stuff continues. Pairs of animals follow him everywhere, birds of all sizes and shapes fly in any open window of the House of Representatives (which apparently is not air-conditioned) to perch on every horizontal surface on or near Evan. His hair, which we know from Carell’s previous stint in 40-Year-Old Virgin is already abundant, really starts to grow like mad. He starts working on the ark. It’s not too bad – God sent a kit.

But this whole ark-building thing is starting to interfere with his job.

Yes, everyone’s noticing that something’s different with Evan. Joan thinks he’s going through a mid-life crisis and leaves with the kids. His staff at the House think he’s gone completely wackadoo. Rita, Evan’s assistant, played by Wanda Sykes, is a master of the obvious and says what everyone’s thinking. But then again, she just makes me laugh in general.

Right on the first day in office, Evan was hand-picked by the uber-powerful senior Congressman Long to help him push through a bill that would allow corporations to build on national park land. It’s a huge honor and opportunity for a brand-spankin’ new Congressman like Evan to get such a nod and begin his political ladder-climbing. His ambition and eager staff urge him to sign on to support the bill despite any moral misgivings. However, Long is hardly impressed by Evan’s antics and the fame it’s drawing.

But that’s not such a big deal once his wild hair and ZZ-Top beard turns stark white and he starts walking around in homespun robes and sandals.

Meanwhile, Joan and the boys stop at a diner where God is their waiter. (This is where the theology gets halfway decent – but only halfway, mind you.) Of course, God isn’t just any waiter, he’s been listening to Joan’s prayers. While not particularly religious, before the family left for their new life, Joan prayed that they all would be brought closer together. God tells her that those kinds of prayers aren’t answered by just suddenly making the family best buds, but by giving them opportunities to grow closer, like common projects, working together, teamwork.

So Joan and the boys take waiter-God’s words to heart and return home to work on bringing their family closer together by helping dad (and a whole bunch of critters) build that crazy ark. Of course, their homecoming is followed by the musical montage featuring side-splitting construction site antics involving monkeys and llamas and elephants, oh my!

Finally, the ark is finished and the animals are even loaded into their specialized compartments. With news crews and police watching, Evan waits for the promised flood. All the publicity has made Congressman Long rather annoyed, and he shows up with a demolition crew to take down the ark due to zoning violations.

Just moments before the ark is taken out by the wrecking ball, we learn the truth about the whole situation with the Congressman Long’s bill and the demo crew. Long and his capitalist-pig buddies actually got a cut of the profits for the new housing development where Evan’s family lives. The valley was actually a river valley and Long’s buddies cut corners when building the dam holding back the river and…oh did I spoil the complex and suspense-riddled plot of the movie? So sorry.

SOMEHOW Evan’s ark “magically” sails through the valley on otherwise unseen waters that just appear out of nowhere, straight into downtown Washington D.C., up the National Mall and coming to a stop right against the Capitol building. Long is exposed as the capitalist monster he is and Evan vindicated and the river valley has been restored to its original pristine natural state. I guess we’re supposed to ignore that an entire housing development is under water.

I’m not sure what I was hoping for, this is Hollywood after all. But I certainly wasn’t expecting the environmentalist diatribe. I’m very happy that all the wood from the ark was donated to Habitat for Humanity and that this was the first movie to leave no environmental “footprint” behind from their sets on site. It’s very nice that people have been encouraged to their own Acts of Random Kindness. However, I go to a movie to be entertained, laugh a bit, maybe even think a little. None of that happened in Evan Almighty. Instead, I got a socio-political sermon in movie form, complete with lame jokes. I guess in this day and age when sermons have to entertain and entertainment preaches I shouldn’t be surprised. But I’m still disappointed. Wait to rent this one. And think twice before doing that.

 

Sandra Ostapowich is Board of Directors Secretary  for Higher Things Inc. and the Minneapolis FOR YOU Conference Coordinator.  Her youth group in Loveland, CO made fun of her for taking notes during the movie, but they never dreamed those notes would get this far.

Created: July 17th, 2007