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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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'Evan Almighty': A boatload of guffaws
A witty deity commands a reluctant 21st century Noah to set sail for salvation in Evan Almighty.
By Steve Persall, Times Film Critic
Published June 21, 2007
Evan Almighty Grade: B Director: Tom Shadyac Cast: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon Screenplay: Steve Oedekerk, based on characters created in Bruce Almighty Rating: PG; brief language and crude humor Running time: 95 min.
Morgan Freeman is God, the best deity in the movies since George Burns. Who wouldn't want Freeman handling greetings at the Pearly Gate, with those gentle eyes and not an ounce of wrath in that dulcet voice?
Freeman's hip holiness is the lone reason Evan Almighty is considered a sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty. This time, his God has more in mind than one man's selfishness. And that man isn't Jim Carrey, who will upstage any divinity or stroke out trying.
The first film's foil, since-blossomed star Steve Carell, reprises his role as Evan Baxter, an egocentric TV anchorman whom we last saw speaking in tongues as a divine prank. Now Evan is a newly elected U.S. congressman with a hollow campaign promise to change the world.
God has a tested plan to help Evan do it: Build an ark in the middle of suburbia. Load it with two of every animal species on Earth. Try persuading other mortals to climb aboard for salvation. Then wait for the flood to come, ignoring the doubts and taunts of nonbelievers.
Noah managed it, but snarky media attention and greedy politicians weren't problems in the Genesis era.
Evan Almighty is a sweet, slick Sunday School parable, shorter on laughs than the original yet much easier for viewers to relate to. Director Tom Shadyac and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk play both sides of the spiritual fence - pious enough to satisfy conservatives, and expressing the environmental concerns of both political camps. It is much more fun than Al Gore's slide show.
The first act consists of clever heavenly signs: a clock radio and license plate referring to Genesis 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.; unexpected deliveries of lumber and ancient tools; and Freeman's comically casual omnipotence. Carell's reactions and halting rationalizations are more amusing than the second act's pratfall montages during ark construction.
Meanwhile, Evan's wife, Joan (Lauren Graham), and sons aren't sure what to make of his transformation to biblical hair and garments. Evan's congressional staff - especially Wanda Sykes and her deadpan ironies - scramble to spin eccentricity into policies. A corrupt congressman (John Goodman) who believed Evan would be a perfect stooge is horrified by the change and pushes for his censure.
Those real-life crises can't slow Evan's obsession, and Freeman's placid guidance begins to work on the audience, too. The film's best writing occurs in a diner scene, in which God poses as a busboy (his nametag: Al Mighty) to counsel Joan on why God works in mysterious ways. A climactic chat with Evan brings the same eye-misting results.
But first come the special effects that reportedly made Evan Almighty the most expensive comedy ($175-million) ever produced. The ark is a massive architectural undertaking. Most of the 177 species waiting for its completion are real, filmed separately, then combined by computers to avert natural instincts. There's a flood that isn't up to Pirates of the Caribbean standards, and neatly packaged comeuppances for the right people.
Somehow, Evan Almighty weathers its shortcomings and leaves viewers feeling respectably warm and fuzzy.
Call it divine providence. Or maybe just dumb summer luck.