The biblical story of Noah and the ark gets a warm-hearted comic update in a sequel to the 2003 hit film Bruce Almighty. This time Steve Carell is the star and Alan Silverman has a look at Evan Almighty.
Evan Baxter was a TV news anchor in Bruce Almighty, in which God appears to his colleague played by Jim Carrey. In the sequel, Evan, played by Steve Carell, moves from the studio to the campaign trail. Elected to Congress on a pledge to "change the world," he quickly learns that Washington politics do not always live up to ideals; and Evan's ideals are put to the test when a distinguished man in a white suit miraculously appears in his life with a remarkable request.
Skeptical at first (to say the least), Evan starts to believe ...especially when animals of all sorts begin showing up at his doorstep, two by two.
Steve Carell says he quickly had to get over the old show business warning against working with animals or small children. "I do like animals," he says. "I must say I liked some better than others. In terms of this movie, the birds were not particularly my favorites. It is hard to bond with an animal that is essentially [defecating] on you. But the elephants and the giraffes and the alpacas ...they were fun. They were nice; and to be that close to an animal is a very different experience because I've always seen animals at the zoo or on television, but to be a couple of feet from their faces is a very different and kind of moving experience because you can see what they're thinking in a way. You get a much greater view of who they are and what they are and much more of an essence of what makes them up."
But Carell's great skill is comedy and he says the furry and feathered co-stars can be funny. "Oh sure because they are unpredictable. You don't know where they are going to go and you just have to adapt to whatever they are doing. I think there is a lot of improvisation involved in working with animals and it's like anything else: the more you can listen and pay attention, the better a scene is going to go and that holds true for working with an animal because they don't know they're in a scene. They don't know they're doing a movie. They're just sort of being themselves so you just have to go with it," he says.
Evan Almighty is directed by Tom Shadyac, who also made Bruce Almighty. That original film was a bit on the racy side with humor geared toward adult audiences; but Shadyac says "Evan" is much more family-friendly. "This is a movie with an ark, animals and a flood. Big boat. We had to be able to invite kids to this movie. We had to be able to invite grandmothers to this movie. It's the Noah's Ark story, a story for everybody," he says.
Shadyac insists, however, that it is not a religious movie. "If there is a point in this movie, I think (Ralph Waldo) Emerson said it best: 'we are idolaters of magnitude.' We think that only big things can effect change, so we have to be elected to Congress to change things ...or donate hundreds of millions of dollars and then we're important. I think this movie says something very different: that change starts with the individual in the smallest of acts (and) the most intimate of moments," he says.
Carell adds that he was drawn to the story because it says something important ...and is still funny. "I thought what was intriguing about this character is that he starts as sort of a blow hard - a self-centered, preening public figure - and he is reduced to something else: the essence of who he really is. We joke about there being a 'arc' to the character, but I think that is it: he starts at one place and ends up in another. In the process we see what he's going through and it's funny," he says.
Evan Almighty also features Morgan Freeman, reprising the role of God that he played in the first film.
Lauren Graham co-stars as Evan's wife who is not sure why her husband is acting this way, but ultimately joins his cause. John Goodman is a corrupt politician whose profit-driven, environment-destroying policies bring on divine intervention. Parts of Evan Almighty were filmed on location in Washington DC and, while some of the animals are created with digital effects, many of the creatures on screen are real.