"Evan Almighty" is a solid, fun-filled film. It's a disappointing sequel to "Bruce Almighty", but as a stand-along film, it's easily one of the best family-orientated films in years.
Evan Almighty (2007, HD-DVD)
Directors: Tom Shadyac
Producers: Tom Shadyac, Tom hanks, Steve Carell
Writers: Steve Oedekerk (screenplay) Steve Oedekerk (story) and Joel Cohen (story) & Alec Sokolow (story) Steve Koren (characters) & Mark O'Keefe (characters)
Features: *Featurettes * Deleted Scenes * Outtakes * PiP Commentary * Trivia Tracks * Web Enabled Ushop * 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus Surround
Steve Carell ... Evan Baxter
Morgan Freeman ... God
Lauren Graham ... Joan Baxter
Johnny Simmons ... Dylan Baxter
Graham Phillips ... Jordan Baxter
Jimmy Bennett ... Ryan Baxter
John Goodman ... Congressman Chuck Long
Wanda Sykes ... Rita Daniels
John Michael Higgins ... Marty Stringer
Jonah Hill ... Eugene
Molly Shannon ... Eve Adams
"Evan Almighty" got a lot of flack when it was released because it was seemingly made to capitalize off the rabid success of the former film's costar, Steve Carell. It also wasn't nearly as raucous as it's big brother which also drew some complaints from fans. In a lot of ways, all of those issues are true, but the film isn't honestly bad, it's just a letdown for those with certain expectations.
The film is no longer rude or crass--it's a family friendly tale following Bruce's nemesis from "Bruce Almighty", Evan Baxter. Evan has just been elected to Congress. He leaves his job as co-newsanchor and heads to Washington with the campaign motto "Change the World." Not long after he arrives, Evan is placed in a situation involving deforestation that could turn him into a corrupt politician, that is, until God visits him and tasks him with building an ark...because a great flood is coming. At first Evan is reluctant, but eventually God's 'Will' wins over and Evan gets to work on the ark at the potential cost of his career.
While the basic setup is mind bogglingly ridiculous and contrived beyond reason, the execution makes for a heartfelt, cute family film. It's not a particularly funny film per se, but it's a lot of fun to watch, particularly for animal lovers.
The cast is fairly game for a fun romp as well, most notably Morgan Freeman, who reprises his role as God from the first film. Lauren Graham is the only actor in the mix who appears bored with the story and her character. Steve Carell is funny here, but no where near as funny without his buddies from "The Office" or with Judd Apatow and Co. writing for him. He's teamed with a myriad of different comedians from Wanda Sykes to Molly Shannon to Jon Stewart, all of whom give fun, albeit restrained, performances. The best bit player in the mix is defiantly Jonah Hill (of "Superbad" fame). Hill's lapdog brown-nosing intern is a hoot to watch.
Tom Shadyac does his best crafting a film with an out-of-control, overly inflated budget. It's a wonder where all the money went really when you watch the film (allegedly it was the copious amount of on-set animals). The film moves at a brisk pace and gets right to the point, rarely straying from the plot. The script itself follows, surprisingly well, the story of Noah and his ark, or at least better than I expected it to. It's flawed only by the preposterous notion that one man and his family could build an ark in what felt like less than two or three months.
"Evan Almighty" never reaches the crass lunacy of "Bruce Almighty", nor does ever get nearly as funny as that film, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe the story isn't necessarily about how crass or lewd the newest situation can be, but rather, how God works in our lives--the message the characters learn. And it that regard, "Evan Almighty" is exactly like "Bruce Almighty."--it's a film about learning how to be a better person and how to better serve God and your neighbors. And with that point in mind, "Evan Almighty" wholly succeeds.
*Film Report Card*
As entertainment: A-
As a film: C+
This is a review of the HD-DVD version of 'Evan Almighty."
"Evan Almighty" is presented on HD-DVD in 2.35:1 widescreen, encoded in 1080p/VC-1 video. The film started out looking bright with solid, sharp colors, but as the movie progressed, the transfer appeared less than stellar to me. The disc is only marginally better than its' DVD counterpart. Black levels, like a lot of Universal releases, are annoying off, with darker objects bleeding into one another. At one point John Goodman is talking with Steve Carell and his suit is virtually indistinguishable. I expected more out of this title, but it just wasn't there.
Again, Universal delivers a solid, but annoyingly dated 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus track. The mix is lively, particularly towards the end of the film, but why hasn't Universal jumped on the Dolby TrueHD boat, especially with this title, which features a slew of truly original HD-only special features.
That said, the mix is rather center happy with surround elements appearing quite frequently, but there isn't the totally enveloping feeling you get from some of Fox's recent releases.
All of the DVD special features are ported over for this release, but don't expect a booming special edition like the recent Universal release, "Knocked Up."
Here we are treated to roughly an hours worth of featurettes and behind-the-scenes vignettes. They include: "The Ark-itects of Noah's Ark", "Animals on Set Two by Two", "Becoming Noah", "A Flood of Visual Effects", "The Almighty Green Set", "It's Easy Being Green", "Acts of Random Kindness", "The Almighty Forest." Most of this stuff was EPK fluff and has very little replay value. A lot of the special features discuss how the set went 'green' and everyone was environmentally conscious. That's nice, but with a purported budget of $175 million, doesn't it sound a little hypocritical? Couldn't that money have gone towards something meaningful?
Next up, we're treated to a slew of fun, but rightfully cut 'Deleted Scenes'. There's also a few funny, but PG-rated 'Outtakes' and a three minute reel of Steve Carell goofing around. Nothing to cry home about.
There are a few solid HD-only special features for fans to peruse. The disc utilizes Universal's U-Control feature. First up, there's an informative Picture-in-Picture video commentary featuring cast and crew interviews and on-set behind-the-scenes footage. This is the best special feature of the disc as it's the only thing that didn't wreak of EPK filler or sappy commercialism.
Next, there's two pop-up trivia tracks. The first is the more straight forward, and straight laced, of the two--it's an basic trivia track featuring facts about how to become more eco-friendly. The second track is very Monty Python inspired--it's a visual guide to making your own Biblical Ark (as seen in the film!). I rather enjoyed these two tracks on thier own respective levels and might actually watch them again unlike a lot of these interactive special features.
Finally, there's a few web-enabled features which allow you to visit an "Evan Almighty"-themed website and Universal's 'Ushop'. At the 'Ushop', you can shop around for items seen in the film and other eco-friendly options, including a solar radio. I like this sort of interactivity, but I'm not sure how often a basic consumer is going to use a special feature like this. Talk about corporate synergy at work too...yikes!
Also, this is a combo disc, with the DVD version of the film on one side and the HD-DVD on the other. I like this idea for the most part, but I don't like the idea that it raises the cost of the disc from $25-30 to $35-40. That's steep.
"Evan Almighty" is a solid, fun-filled film for the whole family. It's a disappointing sequel to "Bruce Almighty", but as a stand-alone film, it's easily one of the best family-orientated films in years without the name "Harry Potter" attached to it. The disc isn't totally recommendable (for video/audiophiles at least), but the HD special features do make up it.
*DVD Report Card*
HD Extras: B+
Overall Value: B+
On DVD and HD-DVD: Octtober 9th, 2007
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----R. L. Shaffer