Case Number 16841: Small Claims Court


Universal // 2003 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 20th, 2009

The Charge

God: "You've been doing a lot of complaining about me. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it."
Bruce: "Wait, really. I'm warning you. When I'm backed into a corner, I'm like a wild animal!"
God: "You haven't won a fight since the fifth grade and that was against a girl."
Bruce: "Yeah, but she was huge."
God: "And the sun was in your eyes."

The Case

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is an unlucky reporter who just can't seem to get a break, no matter how hard he tries. After losing out on a big promotion and getting beaten up as he tries to help a homeless man, Bruce ultimately blames God for all his troubles and criticizes him for doing a poor job as a deity. Bruce is shocked when God himself (Morgan Freeman) grants him divine powers to see just how much better he can do filling the Almighty shoes.

Despite mixed critical reception, Bruce Almighty is actually a pretty decent film. One of the things I still find most interesting about it is just how hard it is to pigeon-hole the picture into any one genre. It includes strong dramatic moments, Carrey-esque slapstick comedy and over-the-top antics, believable dramatic and emotional touches, and a relatively cheese-free dose of romance. Maybe a perception that the film doesn't seem to know what it wants to be is what caused some critics to dismiss the film. There's certainly more to Bruce Almighty than just a goofy comedy.

First working together on Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1994 and then Liar Liar in 1997, in many ways Bruce Almighty was the third-time charm for the director/actor partnership of Tom Shadyac and Jim Carrey. Capturing Carrey's manic delivery and comedic skills in Ace, Shadyac managed to get more range from him in Liar Liar. With Bruce Almighty, moviegoers began to get a taste of Carrey as a "real" actor, a sense that gained further ground later in his career with his impressive work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Number 23. Looking ahead to current and future Carrey projects, fans will no doubt be treated to even more range in Carrey's performances.

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and even Adam Sandler's 2006 film Click share an almost timeless message at their core. How would life be different if you had never existed or had more control over your own destiny? Those questions are also at the heart of Bruce Almighty. I never thought I'd actually say this about a Jim Carrey film, but there is a fundamental message that can be taken away from this one: it's not all about me. I am also still amazed, on repeat viewing, just how respectfully spirituality is treated, and not in an Oprah Winfrey way either.

One of the curses of the high def format war is that, not only do we have DVD releases for many catalog titles, but consumers were subsequently hit with HD DVD releases of the same titles. Now with Blu-ray as the reigning champion, many of these titles are coming out again on BD. Blu-ray is all about the capacity to handle the best-possible audio and video content, while leaving ample room for supplementary features that keep so many movie fans buying spinning silver discs.

You'd expect that with its debut on Blu-ray, consumers would be treated to a new hi-def transfer of Bruce Almighty and an assortment of fresh HD features, but you'd be wrong. Apparently Universal is just fine with rehashing content from format to format without any consideration of quality in either the a/v presentation or the extra features. If this were a standard DVD presentation, I'd easily be gushing over how clear and unblemished the image is here, but considering this is the debut of the film on Blu-ray, it's pretty weak...the color palette is washed out and there's very little depth or sharpness to the image. The audio presentation is above average and nicely balanced while also managing to be almost totally unmemorable.

The extra features have been directly ported from the DVD release, to the HD-DVD version and now onto BD. If you have either of those previous releases, you won't find anything at all that's new here...nada. Director Tom Shadyac's commentaries on the film itself and the deleted scenes are fine, sharing some interesting production details, but he also spends a lot of time gushing over Carrey's brilliance. Snore.

SD featurettes on a high-def release!?!?!? That's right folks, "The Process of Jim" and the outtakes that came with both previous releases are duplicated here in dismal SD. These extras honestly look like someone synched their VCR with a Blu-ray recorder and pressed record/play, they're really that bad. If you're a rabid fan of the film or a completist, I won't likely be able to talk you out of picking up Bruce Almighty on Blu-ray, but as God is my witness, it won't be the best money you've ever spent.

The Verdict

Universal is guilty of the dreaded triple-dip, without upsizing the combo!

Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes

* IMDb

* Official Site