A former TV personality gets elected to Washington and finds himself having to build something ridiculous.
This sort-of sequel to Bruce Almighty features Bruce’s smarmy co-host Evan (Steve Carell), who’s tasked by God (Morgan Freeman) with building a huge ark, apparently based on the true story of Ken Ham.
Like Darren Aronofsky’s attempt at pre-historic Waterworld it manages to be just as nonsensical as the source material, albeit in different ways. People defend Noah’s Ark on the grounds that it’s not meant to be taken literally, so it’s hard to fathom Hollywood’s obsession with making literal representations of it. It’s even stranger for a light, PG-rated comedy, since when it comes to the ending you have a choice between genocide and anticlimax.
But the problem isn’t really the story. It’s the fact it doesn’t manage to be funny or entertaining along the way. It suffers from weak supporting characters, especially Evan’s nondescript family, and has no jokes to speak of, unless you count unfunny slapstick which doesn’t play to Carrel’s strengths. And the under-written character of Evan means it features neither a Noah nor an arc.
The visual effects are extremely poor, and the one good thing is that Morgan Freeman is back in his defining role. “What if Noah’s Ark happened to someone nowadays” may be a fun idea, but it’s not really explored. “Why me?” Evan complains, apparently not realising that the guy selected to build the ark is the lucky one. He even keeps showing up to work, meaning he’s either unable to grasp the implications of the situation or he’s the world’s most career-driven person.
Like The Invention of Lying it focuses on the superficial visual links to religion and when it tries to go deeper it fails. Evan is laughed at when he says God is speaking to him, which isn’t even that uncommon in US politics, and a sharper film might have made a joke out of this. But being a mainstream American film it’s never able to satirise its subject matter (“where am I going to find a tape measure that’s in cubits?”). It could be a funny tale if it had a Life of Brian-esque satirical eye, but instead it will make you want to leave the cinema in two by two.