Evan Almighty—a film designed for those who love both animals doing wacky things and the fantastic fables of the Old Testament—is the latest film to star Steve Carell, the fortysomething actor from The Daily Show who shot to stardom with The 40-Year-Old Virgin. After Virgin, Carell signed on to NBC's The Office; factor in his nuanced performance in Little Miss Sunshine, and one finds an insanely talented comedic actor at the top of his game. To say that Evan Almighty—an unasked-for sequel to 2003's already-forgotten Jim Carrey vehicle, Bruce Almighty—is below Carell's talents is to be charitable. Put another way: About 10 minutes into Evan Almighty, a dog bites Carell in the junk for comedic effect. Things go downhill from there.
Just as in Bruce, Evan's hook is that an ordinary guy—in this case, Carell's Evan—is singled out by God (Morgan Freeman). Evan, a weatherman in Bruce, is now a newly elected congressman who lives in a swank house and drives around in his Hummer with his three sons and his annoying wife (played by that annoying chick from Gilmore Girls—no, not the annoying younger one, the annoying older one). Enter God, who tells the reluctant Evan to build an ark—at which point pairs of animals start following Evan around, at which point the film becomes a series of gags about animals doing wacky things. Soon, Evan's sporting a white beard and robes, reading Ark Building for Dummies, and getting all creepy and preachy whenever anyone questions his devotion.
Worse than Evan's bland Bible Belt pandering, though, is how the PG-rated film somehow utterly deflates the usually hilarious Carell. Cruelly, he's not director Tom Shadyac's only victim: Evan boasts a few other great comedians (Molly Shannon, Wanda Sykes, Jonah Hill), all of whom Shadyac systematically drains of their humor. By the time a CG flood buoys Evan's ark (well, it sort of does—suffice to say Evan's feel-good ending isn't quite the Biblical catastrophe one might expect), one can't help but think that if Morgan Freeman really wanted to do some good, he'd advise Carell to be a bit pickier when selecting his roles.