LOS ANGELES-Evan Almighty (rated PG for coarse humor), like all Hollywood pictures, makes a promise: This movie is for adults. Its progenitor, Bruce Almighty (2003) was a comedy clearly meant for the older set. And its star, Steve Carell, has built his career on work like The 40-Year Old Virgin and NBC's The Office. But in fact Evan Almighty is a film for children. And this isn't such a bad thing.
One's first clue, of course, is the presence of so many nice animals.
The film opens with Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) just elected to Congress. He promises not to let work get in the way of family, but soon his three boys and his wife find themselves without much of a dad. Then God shows up. Evan wants to change the world, and the Great I Am (Morgan Freeman) will give him that chance. Build an ark, he is told.
So, when Evan eventually begins to build it, his constituents, his fellow congressional leaders, his staff, his children, and of course, his wife, all think he's nuts. Probably like the last guy God asked to do this. What follows involves a test of Evan's faith in himself, his family, and yes (in a way), God.
Aside from the tired and repetitive dispensation of bird droppings and no more potty humor than one might find in a movie with a Scottish ogre, Evan Almighty is quite child-friendly.
A Christian's first reaction to this film, however, may come before actually seeing it. The trailer promises a story that might be sacrilegious, but nothing in the film presumes to contradict the Genesis story of Noah, and nothing presumes to offend the sensibilities of those who take that story seriously. Director Tom Shadyac told WORLD and other reporters at a June 9 screening, "The ark story speaks to everybody." Evan comes off less crude and offensive than its predecessor Bruce because, Shadyac said, he made "a conscious effort to invite everyone to this movie."
But, viewers must heed one caveat: Evan Almighty suggests that God is unhappy with how we have treated the environment. In Evan God is sending a flood because we cut down too many trees-an idea that's tired not because it's a lie but because it is a Hollywood cliché. Fortunately, though, this theme is handled too gingerly to turn the movie into any kind of sturdy environmentalist statement.
At the end of it all, this is not a story about the environment. It is a story about an ark. And that's why children will like it.