Judge Ryan Keefer had a run as God for a while. Perhaps you remember when Jack in the Box restaurants were more visible on the East Coast.
I am Bruce Almighty. My will be done!
Well, well, I wonder why Bruce Almighty is being released as a catalog title in the Universal HD DVD library. Surely it couldn't be because the sequel Evan Almighty is about to be released in theaters, automatically dating this review? Of course not. But anyway, here it is in high definition. Is it worth the double dip?
Facts of the Case
In this story by Steve Koren and Mark O' Keefe, Bruce (Carrey) is a reporter at a Buffalo news station, competing with Evan Baxter (Steven Carell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) for the soon-to-be vacant news anchor spot. Bruce is a nice enough guy, but he doesn't get the breaks in life, and he vents to his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston, The Break Up). Grace gives him a set of prayer beads that one of the kids made at the day care center she works at, to maybe give him an added boost in faith. Soon though, he complains to God as well, since things aren't going his way. He does get a break doing some heavier news, but finds out on live TV about losing the anchor position. Bruce explodes with hilarity on live TV about the slight, and is appropriately fired. As he tries to get out of his rut, he gets a call to meet downtown, and turn his life around. There, he finds a janitor, who we later find out is the man himself, God (there aren't many better choices than Se7en's Morgan Freeman). God basically says, "If you're so good, why don't you try it?" and he gives his powers to Bruce. So Bruce does all the stuff anyone would do in his position, get a better car, get his job back (and take the promotion he wanted), make his girlfriend's chest bigger, that kinda thing.
While he takes care of numero uno, he forgets about everyone else, and those hopes and prayers get cast aside. However, once Bruce answers them with a simple "yes," riots start to spring up. In the midst of this, Grace starts to become disappointed with him, and leaves him. She does come back to give him a second chance, only to find him kissing the female anchor (JAG's Catherine Bell, one of a few recognizable names in underused roles). So Bruce hits bottom and God comes back. Does Bruce get his old life back? Well, if you weren't one of those who contributed to the film's almost $250 million in box office receipts, go out and see it, and throw some more money in Carrey's pockets!
Two things came to mind after I saw this film: one, I was surprised at just how big a rehab project this was for Carrey. You'd think that with Bell, Carell, Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia) and Nora Dunn (Three Kings) in this film that some quality acting and storytelling would come from it, but they're almost absent in the film, which was a disappointment. And quite frankly, nothing's more disappointing to see a comedy with a lot of recognizable faces in it who don't do anything worth mentioning—it's a waste of their talents. The second thing is that when Carrey's character is conflicted, there's a lot more emotion from Carrey here as opposed to other films, and that's the dramatic side of him coming through. He can certainly pull it off, and if he could find the right mix, in terms of story and supporting cast, he could still pull the ol' Tom Hanks and have a decent dramatic life. But sometimes you need to stretch your goofball comedy legs, and this was one of those times.
Bruce Almighty features a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer with the VC-1 codec. Because of the whole "afterlife" feel of the movie, the film comes across looking substantially whiter than other films, and that look translates well here. Though in re-watching this film again after a few years, I'd forgotten how much of Buffalo eerily resembles a California set or two, along with the occasional green screen effect or two. The Dolby Digital-Plus soundtrack doesn't really bring any sort of gravitas in the sound area, though there are some lightning strikes that sound pretty powerful and cool, everything else is just kind of bland.
The extras are pulled over from the standard definition disc, starting off with a commentary by director Tom Shadyac. Speaking as "one of the 12 people that are going to watch this," I can tell you he doesn't really shed any new light on things. Judging from his tone though, it sounds like everyone had a good time in making this movie, and was glad to see it do well. He talks about working with Jim and identifying any improvs that he did, and tells us that the sets were really on backlots, and not in Buffalo! I respond to that statement with one word: duh. It's not worth your time, you can skip it. Following that, there is a six-minute look at "The Process of Jim" that basically doubles as commentary from Shadyac and a look at some alternate takes from Carrey in three scenes. Most of his takes aren't worth the time, but given a lot of props to work with, he's a regular Carrot Top. Aside from the outtakes at the end credits, there's a separate seven-minute blooper reel here featuring a lot of funny flub and mistakes. Following this, there is a half hour of deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Shadyac. There are some scenes with Baker Hall that are fairly funny, and a dark twist on Carell's possession that are noticeable, but the other stuff was edited out with justifiable cause.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Before taking on his role as Michael Scott in The Office, Carell was a guy who just left The Daily Show and was appearing in smaller roles in films. This one was the first of three where he nearly (or completely) stole the spotlight from the star in the film, with the other two being Anchorman and Bewitched. It would have been nice to see him get a little bit more dialogue to play with in Bruce Almighty, but like Mick says, you can't always get what you want.
Well, Jim Carrey was funny again, and his subsequent films prove to show that this was the last time where he was going back to what made him famous, the over the top shticky stuff. The HD DVD is no real upgrade technically, so if you've got the old version of this, it's probably better to play it on your player and enjoy how well it upconverts that disc, rather than shelling out cash for a new one. If you haven't seen it before and never have heard of Ace Ventura, this may be worth checking out.
The court finds Universal guilty for the crime of double-dipping without any real merit.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director Tom Shadyac
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