Take Two

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Evan Almighty & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o you went and did it. You went and made a sequel to Bruce Almighty without Jim Carrey or Jennifer Aniston. Ballsy, and instead of casting some look-alike or making it about young Bruce or old Bruce, you went the sitcom spin-off route, taking the small, one-dimensional character Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) and giving him an entire film. Then you cast Lauren Graham as his wife. You didn't worry about the pair having zero chemistry, figuring that Carell's a star and she's a Gilmore Girl. He'd act awkward and she'd talk a lot. It'd be magic.

The film's underperforming at the box office, though. Could've seen that coming, personally, but it's a comedy, right? Comedies are cheap. No real loss.

Wait, how much did this cost? 175 million? Like, dollars? You guys screwed yourselves. The computer graphics on Evan's Ark look like a PlayStation cutscene... oh, right, you actually built a physical ark in suburban Virginia. I forgot. OK, so your heads were in the right place. High production values are good. Personally, though, I'd have used some of that money to make the ark look good.

The animals were cool, though, and there were a lot of them. All over the place. From dogs to ibexes to pandas to birds of paradise. Stunning! And those little black borders outlining each animal, showing how you'd obviously spent months with pairs of rare and dangerous animals in front of a green screen... Well, that didn't look good. At all. You obviously worked hard though, so good job on that.

So the film hemorrhaged money and resulted in one of the worst comedies on record. At least you only took a $5 million hit on Steve Carell himself. Must've felt like the bargain of a lifetime. Biggest comedy star in Hollywood slumming for five mil.

Too bad he sucked. In hindsight, the problem might have been that he played down to the dollar figure, turning in the most staggeringly one-note comedic performance of his career. It couldn't have helped either that Steve Odekirk (Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty) wrote a screenplay that expands the self-injury slapstick of the 40-Year-Old Virgin to about half the film here, the other half being a really dull, PG-rated Creation Care pamphlet.

Or was it you guys who made it PG? Worrying that the $175 million price tag couldn't possibly be recouped unless you went for a broad audience was a good instinct. I'm not sure you had to go quite as wide as you did, though, catering to Steve Carell fans, the Sierra Club and biblical literalists. That kinda sapped the film of punch, guys, trading laughs of any kind for off-kilter, saccharine-sweetened Old Testament tree-hugging.

Hold on! I'm not questioning your passion. You're totally bringing two different faiths to the faithless. That's dope. And you're practicing what you preach! I read the press release about how director Tom Shadyac, moved by the script's environmental message, planted hella trees to offset the shoot's carbon emissions and how he recycled the huge, fake-ass ark set.

Passion's great. I love passion. It's just a shame, guys, that your passion was for the concept, not the execution. Kinda seems like the recipe for a really expensive, really bad movie that isn't even slightly entertaining. Live and learn, though, right? (Rated PG)