Evan Almighty

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      Starring Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman. Rated general.

      Viewers searching for evidence of a merciful God should avoid Evan Almighty, the very existence of which proves we truly are alone in an unfeeling universe.

      This sodden spinoff of director Tom Shadyac's Bruce Almighty finds Steve Carell parlaying his supporting role into a Jim Carrey–sized lead (if not salary). And for the $200 million reportedly poured into Evan , you'd expect more than a dashed-together script by Steve Oedekerk, who worked with the director on their Ace Ventura and Nutty Professor flicks. They obviously expected more too, and the attempt to load this leaky vessel with feeble environmental messages and icky, quasi-religious meaning is the only laughable thing going on here.

      Carell reprises his role as local news anchor Evan Baxter, only now he has used his notoriety to launch a career in politics. He is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on a platform of "changing the world". This apparently consists of driving a silver Hummer, buying a giant McMansion in newly denuded forest land, and furnishing it with nearly extinct Brazilian hardwoods. "Image is everything," he insists.

      Former Gilmore girl Lauren Graham looks deeply uncomfortable as a wifey-wife with no interest in her husband's work. On his first day as a congressman, she's just angry because he won't have time to take their three sons for a hike. Clearly, Graham is the one ready to head for the hills (I'm pretty sure I saw her mouthing "help me" to the camera operator on several occasions).

      Who can blame her? Despite her character's plea for family unity, when Evan is visited by the Old Testament overlord (Morgan Freeman, believable), ordered to build an ark, and then plagued by enough hair to make Cecil B. DeMille cry "too patriarchal", he doesn't bother to explain any of this to his helpmate. Good Christian that she is, she promptly leaves him. This gives the filmmakers plenty of opportunity to make timely Loggins & Messina jokes when not busy dishing out gallons of bird poop. His assistant (Wanda Sykes) is more loyal but almost exclusively potty-mouthed.

      Of course, everything works out according to plan. A sleazy congressman, played by John Goodman as a cross between Lyndon Johnson and Tom DeLay, gets what he deserves, although neither he nor others seem greatly moved by the presence of thousands of wild animals on the Washington Mall. They do notice the poop, though.

      Speaking of which, Carell stinks here, much to everyone's surprise. If he's not careful, he'll turn into the new Robin Williams. And, God help us, we're still trying to get rid of the last one.