For a few memorable minutes in Bruce Almighty (2003), Steve Carell caught lightning in a bottle. His jabbering turn as newsreader Evan Baxter upstaged 'comedy god' Jim Carrey and director Tom Shadyac quickly signed him up for a spin-off. Alas, Carell isn't blessed with a second strike of divine inspiration in Evan Almighty. Having said that, he exudes enough of a warm glow to make this updated Noah's Ark story an enjoyable outing for all the family.
After launching a new high-profile career in politics, Evan is visited by God (Morgan Freeman) and warned of an imminent flood. The deity helpfully throws a few planks his way, plus a copy of Ark Building For Dummies and commands him to get busy. Soon enough what starts as a weekend DIY project takes over Evan's life, and he struggles to convince the world - and more importantly his family - that he's only doing it because God said so.
It's evident early on that writer Steve Oedekerk (who scripted the original) is short on ideas. He takes one mildly amusing skit, like Evan being stalked by animal twosomes, and plays it over and over again. Then there's the one where Evan wakes up with a shaggy Noah-style beard which immediately grows back after shaving. Oedekerk stretches that gag so far it's on a par with JC's miracle of the loaves and fishes. Thankfully, Carell's hapless puppy dog charm makes him immediately sympathetic and he possesses the comic timing to put a much-needed spin on an obvious joke. Wanda Sykes adds her brand of sassy, wisecracking attitude playing his secretary and a splashy CGI finale ups the excitement. Of course it's left to Carell to steer us through the choppy parts.
Evan Almighty is out in the UK on 3rd August 2007.