Review: 'Evan Almighty' keeps the laughter coming

Many people are accused of playing God. Few if any, get paid as well for their efforts as Morgan Freeman.

Freeman portrays the Supreme Being, first in “Bruce Almighty,” and now in the sequel, “Evan Almighty.” As the only character central to the series and the sole remaining bankable actor, he could – if he were actually immortal — continue in the role forever. The franchise’s concept is durable and profitable.

Released four years ago, “Bruce Almighty” starred Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, a whiney, self-indulgent television reporter who felt he wasn’t getting his due from the Guy Upstairs. Like a father setting down a full bottle of whiskey in front the teenage son he has caught sneaking a sip or two, God hands over the reigns of the universe to Bruce. The comedy took in almost a half-billion in receipts globally.

Carrey and Jennifer Aniston, who played his girlfriend, are gone in “Evan Almighty.” Returning with Freeman is Steve Carell as the anal retentive Evan Baxter, Bruce’s nemesis, who beat him out for the anchorman’s job.

By leveraging his television visibility, Evan has now earned a congressional seat, making a campaign promise to “change the world.” The proverbial parody of a self-centered TV anchor, every hair in place, Congressman Baxter puffs out his chest and heads for the suburbs of Washington, D.C. With him comes the family — a wife (Lauren Graham from “Gilmore Girls”) and three boys.

Singing his mantra of “I’m successful, I’m powerful, I’m happy, I’m handsome" the freshman legislator struts into his first day at work, immediately finding himself strong-armed by the powerful and ethically challenged Congressman Long (John Goodman).

Meanwhile, curious deliveries begin arriving at the Baxters' house–a box of primitive tools and stacks of lumber, soon followed by visits from a man who identifies himself as God. He says he needs an ark built. Evan resists, but as we all know the Big Guy can be convincing.

Although Evan is trying to keep thewhole thing low-key, when he takes out a mortgage on his house to buy the eight surrounding lots for a building site, the cat — rather two of them, are out of the bag — as well as two skunks, monkeys, alpacas, etc.

Evan’s wife is initially quite shaken by her husband’s new commitment and his changed appearance — long unkempt hair, with a matching beard and a sheepskin robe. But eventually she and the boys come on board, so to speak. With the office staff and neighbors questioning his sanity, the family and the animals are his only allies, as he races to finish the ark on time.

This otherwise average movie is made enjoyable by Evan's wisecracking receptionist (Wanda Sykes) and a bit of strategically placed potty humor. Some moviegoers will be surprised to find that God is an environmentalist, which is incidental.

“Evan Almighty” is reminiscent of the old Saturday afternoon matinees, that had so-so stories in which the bad guys get their comeuppance, the good guys are redeemed and the audience gets a few giggles.

Rating: C

Lester Gray writes movie reviews exclusively for Read his review of “A Mighty Heart” here.

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