Evan Almighty

Universal Studios

Review in a Hurry:  God (Morgan Freeman) needs the assistance of a mortal again, this time tapping newly minted congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to build an ark. So much for the separation of church and state; so much, also, for the marriage of church and comedy.

The Bigger Picture:  Faith-based comedy turns out to be a lot like faith-based flying: When it works, it doesn't work for long, and nobody wants to clean up after. Take Evan Almighty, a big-budget comic retelling of the Noah story (mixed with some Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) that requires more than a leap of faith to get to the funny. It's all much concerned with the soul but regrettably lacks a heart, a brain or a smidgen of wit.

We're talking a deluge of dumb here. The portentous running gags aren't funny to begin with, so most of the laughs in Evan Almighty have to come from Evan's struggles with his mission and the bewilderment of his neighbors and coworkers.

But since director Tom Shadyac throws so much divine assistance Evan's way early on—supernatural wood deliveries, extraordinary hirsuteness, a collection of trained animals from Dr. Doolittle's wet dreams—it takes a pack of blithering idiots to keep the story afloat, crowds of people so oblivious they're unable to see a miracle when it's literally biting Steve Carell in the crotch.

You'd need the patience of a saint not to hope for everyone to drown at the end. But hey, isn't that pretty much the way the story went the first time around?

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Animals, lots of animals. If you're really into animals and can abide the preachiness, you might have a good time. Sure, a lot of them are CGI—seriously, there aren't enough animal wranglers in the world for this—but if you're looking for modern miracles, a virtual multispecies herd is the best thing you'll find here.

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