Saturday, June 23, 2007

Review: Evan Almighty

I meant to post a review last week of the newly released Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but a busy schedule wouldn't allow for it; let's just say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll try to keep up a little better with the rest of the big summer releases, starting here with the anticipated sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty.

Most of you are probably familiar with the plot, so here I'll offer only the briefest synopsis: Evan Baxter, newly elected Congressman, has been asked by God to build an Ark in preparation for a flood(vaguely familiar...). He becomes a modern-day Noah, while juggling responsibilities as a father and politician.
Let me say right off the bat that if you're a fan of Steve Carell from Anchorman or The 40-Year Old Virgin, this is not one of those movies. This is very PG and very family friendly.

It's also leaving me with a bit to ponder, namely, the point of the movie. Steve Carell himself has been quoted that it's a film about "kindness"; this is certainly one theme, but just another one, among many. There is a great deal said in the film about our stewardship of God's creation. There's also much said, very interestingly, about faith. The whole idea of presenting the story of Noah, as it occurred in the scriptures in a modern setting is intriguing in and of itself to me.

As far as points to ponder are concerned, I'll mention a few here:
1) One of the major foci in the film is on political action, and this even comes off almost as God's ultimate purpose in working throughout the movie. While Christian convictions can and will affect your voting and even lead you to right some letters, lobby for this or that, and such, I just don't feel that this is really God's concern, as depicted here. Transforming people into His likeness will solve these problems more fully that campaigning. . . Evan's character is certainly transformed by the film's end, but into sort of a secular reflection of God's purpose; he's more environmentally friendly, closer to his family, and on good terms with God, but, for all this film's scriptural allusions, this is still a pretty ambiguous God figure, and the other warm, fuzzy changes that he sees will fit well with any pop spiritual teaching under the sun.

2) Again, the ambiguity of Morgan Freeman's God. Freeman does a great job in this film, and probably steals the show every time he's on screen, but I'm still not sure who he's portraying. He references Genesis quite a bit, and is apparently the Creator, and even the angry God of the Flood account in Gen. 6-7, but that only by inference. He is not, apparently, the Father of the Trinity, as there's no mention of Christ or the Spirit in the film. This seems to be the sort of God that anyone can get on board with; he's kind and encourages kindness, he's personal enough at times, and listens to your prays and gives help, but there's so much more that needs to be said. Some of the more subtle descriptions of the Almighty sneaking around in the movie almost make him sound like some anthropomorphicized-Force from Star Wars, living in all things, and such.

3) Repentance is brought up as a theme very suddenly near the film's end, almost as if it were an after thought. Out of no where Evan exhorts the apparently crooked Senior Congressman Long(John Goodman) to repent, I'm assuming of his profiteering motives. He doesn't repent and his 'sin' is subsequently discovered... so is the point of the Ark to point one man (unsuccessfully) to repentance? I don't know.

There are other points to be made, but I'll hold here.
The film was fun, and funny at times, but, for me at least, it is best described as vague. I know that churches have been encouraged to use it as teaching material, almost like the promotion of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, or even last summer's The DaVinci Code, but frankly I'm not sure what could be said here. Granted, I haven't looked at any of the material that Christianity Today has available regarding the film, but personally, I don't think I'd ever use it for more than a neat illustration of the tale of Noah for children, or perhaps a lesson in the subtleties of a friendly spirituality posing as Christianity.


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