A sequel to a Jim Carrey vehicle without Jim Carrey, on the surface, doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea, and history would seem to bear that out. The “Almighty” films benefit from having a charismatic backup in the shape of Carell who has a proven of ability to carry a film on his own.
And he does, sort of. “Evan Almighty” is much more of a family film than “Bruce,” with all of the usual tropes that go along with that. Evan has been putting his family on the backburner while he follows his own ambitions, to the point that his wife (Lauren Graham) and sons don’t really trust anything he says. The sudden mission from God, despite the initial stresses it understandably causes, could be just the thing to force the family to face it’s problems, while at the same time forcing Evan to face the crooked congressman (John Goodman) who has been pressuring him to sponsor a bill opening up federally protected land to developers and figure out what he really wants from life.
It’s all very cut and dry, bordering on dull, with a few decent laughs, which almost all entirely come from delivery. Carell has a very charming screen presence and has decent supporting cast with professional comedic assistant Wanda Sykes, and John Michael Higgins and Jonah Hill as his staff. There’s a great deal of comedic talent working here, and none of them can muster anything more than a decent chuckle.
And that falls entirely on the shoulders of director Tom Shadyac (“Bruce Almighty,” “Liar, Liar,” “The Nutty Professor”) and writer Steve Oedekerk, who have been responsible for some of the blandest, toothless ‘comedies’ of the last decade. They’re all built on a pretty standard formula and “Evan Almighty” doesn’t deviate from that at all. Nothing kills comedy faster than predictability, but Shadyac and Oedekerk refuse to do anything new. They usually get away with it through the sheer manic energy of their leads, but as charming as Carell is, a hundred percent mania isn’t really his style, and “Evan Almighty” tends to stall because of the filmmaker’s absolute insistence not to do anything that isn’t completely safe.
“Evan Almighty” is a decent family comedy. There’s absolutely nothing new under the sun, but a good cast is able to keep it from being a complete waste of time.