Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty
Evan Almighty, which premiered last weekend to good but not massive box office, is getting very poor reviews.
Those reviewers are dead wrong.

It’s a very good film. Not a classic, but entertaining, affecting, and truly meaningful. In fact, for those not entirely resistant to it, Evan Almighty could well prove rather inspiring.

The first half is quite funny, with lots of silly humor. As the story progresses, the issues become more serious, but the movie does not lose its essential lightness of tone.

Steve Carell delivers the expected amount of crazy humor as Evan Baxter, the title character who finds himself called by God to build an ark in his Virginia subdivision, and Morgan Freeman gives a highly effective and affecting performance in, well, a rather difficult role.

Carell doesn’t have even a goodly fraction of the energy Jim Carrey brought to the role of Bruce Nolan in Bruce Almighty (which is a terrific film, also directed by Tom Shadyac, who helmed Evan Almighty), but Carell has an essential sadness to his face that makes his character much more likeable than any that Carrey has ever played. We really root for him in a way that Carrey absolutely cannot elicit. In addition, Carell’s ability to bring out the serious side of the character while stuck in exceedingly silly situations gives the film a firm personal foundation on which to build.

The ark in Evan Almighty movie

The film’s secondary plot—a powerful Congressman’s effort to legislate a land grab that will make him and his cronies wealthy beyond all rational dreams—bears a striking resemblance to the analogous situation in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and is about as convincing (meaning: not at all). Yet the undertone of that storyline and its connection with the main story—that the solutions to our problems are not to be obtained through politics but by simple kindness toward one another, inspired by love for God and our neighbors—is very interesting indeed, and quite welcome.

Of course, to many people that message will seem naive and indeed dangerous. They will go to see Michael Moore’s latest film instead. But Evan Almighty is right about the real solution to our problems, and no amount of cynical dismissals will ever change that simple truth.

Steve Carell as Evan AlmightyCertainly Evan Almighty is neither psychologically nor politically sophisticated, and it would be easy to be put off by the lack of depth in the characterizations and the refusal to dig into political and social debates. It’s a film with immensely serious ideas that is told in the same cinematic terms and tone as Cheaper by the Dozen and Elf. A clever person could easily dismiss it as frivolous and not worth one’s time.

That would be a mistake. It is in fact a thoroughly superficial view of the film (and cinema in general and art in general), and one which intelligent people should be expected to be able to overcome.

Evan Almighty is lighthearted but with a serious purpose: to express in cinematic terms God’s love for all people. It does this quite successfully, and given the perverse, materialistic, sensualistic nature of most contemporary American journalists and internet loudmouths, it does not surprise me at all that the film is not getting good reviews.

But you really should see it, because it’s a sound, intelligent, spiritually wise film that entire families can enjoy. That is something to be appreciated, not sneered at.