Bruce Almighty (2003)
Nothing seems to be going right for Bruce: his job, his car, even his dog pees in the house. The only thing that is good in his life is his loving girlfriend, Grace, played by Jennifer Aniston. He really wants the anchor job for his channel 7 news station. Instead, he gets sent to do a live story at the maid of the mist in Niagara Falls. Just before he goes to do the story, an announcement comes in his earpiece saying that the anchor position was given to Evan Baxtor. He gets very upset and freaks out on the boat, eventually swearing on public television. As a result, he is fired. He blames God for his downfall and calls God many different names, basically just blaspheming. After Bruce claims that God could fix his life in 5 minutes if he wanted to, God responds to him giving Bruce powers to prove that his job isn’t as easy as Bruce thinks. So, Bruce goes around with the powers at first doing tests to show that he really did have the powers. Then, he uses them to improve his life and get revenge on all the people that have mistreated him, including revenge on Baxtor for taking the anchor job. Bruce uses his powers to get his job back. He happened to be in the right place just as a police dog digs up a dead body of a drug lord. Then he happened to be on the scene of a meteor crashing to the ground. He is unconcerned of the well being of others, including his girlfriend. He eventually tries to answer prayers by giving everyone everything they want. This results is world riots and turmoil. So Bruce gives up on being God and gets on his knees begging God to let him be himself once again. Because he was kneeling in the middle of the road, Bruce gets hit by a truck and dies. He talks to God and prays that Grace would have someone to love her. God decides to bring him back to life for that reason. In the end, Bruce learns to be more loving and less concerned with his own interests and more for the cares of others. He becomes a very loving guy.
Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some crude humor.
Runtime: 101 min
Company: Universal Pictures
Faith Review by Jeff Smith
Film Title: Bruce Almighty
Year: May 23, 2003 (Memorial Day Weekend).
Director(s): Tom Shadyac directed the film. Shadyac has also directed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), Liar Liar (1997), Patch Adams (1998), and Evan Almighty (2007). Several of his films deal with morality issues, but particularly with a lead role struggling with God. He likes to use Jim Carrey and all of his films revolve around comedy. Shadyac was involved in stand up comedy early in his career.
Original Release Form/Venue: Originally released for theatres.
Current Availability and Formats: Released to DVD on November 25, 2003. Became available on Blu-ray on June 2, 2009.
Story Elements: The characters are important in this film. Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a news reporter whose life is spiraling downward, and his fiancé, Grace Connelly (Jennifer Aniston) is somewhat religious and supportive of Bruce, but Bruce begins to push her away. God (Morgan Freeman) shows up and endows Bruce with his own powers, because Bruce thinks he can do God’s job better. The entire film is centered on how Bruce uses God’s powers. The director uses an ensemble cast of Jim Carrey who uses his witty humor to bring laughter in the midst of questioning God, Morgan Freeman, who is also witty but makes God seem real and believable, and Jennifer
Aniston, who is the caring and supportive fiancé who is struggling to make her boyfriend accept their relationship and life together as okay and not mediocre.
Film Language Elements:
The special effects in the movie are used sometimes obviously and other times more subtle. For instance when Bruce walks on water or parts his soup is obvious, yet when he is pouring water into a wine glass and it becomes wine, or steps on the puddle but doesn’t get wet is a little more subtle. The music in the film also reflects the different scenes that are being shown.
Audience/Cultural Context Elements: The intended viewers of this film are those who embrace Christianity and are looking to either be challenged or be offended by this movie, as well as those who have no faith and are looking for a satirical jab at Christianity. The film draws the audience in because it’s clear that Bruce is angry with God and see’s God as an enemy and not a friend. The movie portrays God as someone who is always there
whether one sees him or not, and is not afraid to confront or speak to anyone who thinks he is not listening. The film challenges the social viewpoint of a cosmic vending machine God, who gives everyone what they want and depicts a God who is active in creation but does not force his creation to do what he wants.
Theology is Found: Theology is found explicitly throughout the movie. For instance Bruce angrily yells out to God to be answered after his bad day ends wrecking his car and immediately his beeper goes off with an unknown number. He picks it up and responds, “Sorry don’t know you, wouldn’t call you if I did.” Little does he know that it’s God contacting him. Bruce is angry with God, and sees God as someone who delights in ruining lives. The Trinity is presented in the film, when God shows up as a janitor, electrician, and a businessman. References to scripture and biblical stories are evident throughout the movie: walking on water, parting the Red Sea of soup,
changing water to wine, the number 7, golden calf, Yahweh browser instead of Yahoo, etc… Bruce is spends the whole movie trying to get his girlfriend, Grace, back – this is no doubt symbolic. God even makes the comment, “No matter how dirty something gets, it can always be cleaned right up.”
Theological Themes for Conversation: “What is your Godview? – Is God an angry policeman, grandfather, judge, helper, etc…”
“Does God give us signs but we are too blind to see them?”
“Could we do God’s job better?”
“Does God ignore us completely?”
“How is the Trinity presented in the film and how do Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together?”
“How should we pray? What should we expect in prayer?”
“Can we get “grace” back or is “grace” already present?”
“Self-serving vs. serving others”
“What might happen if God answered all our prayers the way we wanted?”
“Can God makes us love Him and if so, would He?”
“Is redemption possible for even the dirtiest of situations?”
“Do we expect God to handle everything? What role do we play in our own situations?”
“What does it mean for us to surrender to God’s will?”
Suggested Use of Film: This film could be used as an illustration of theological themes and also for clarification and explanation or deepening of theological themes.
Recommended Amount/Parts of Film to View & How to View It: This movie can be used in a number of ways. It could be shown as a whole with a discussion to follow, or it could be used with individual clips with different
theological themes present throughout the movie. Using it in this manner would require setting the scene beforehand. I would not watch the entire film with a group of jr. or sr. high students because of the sexual innuendos in it, but particular clips could be used for conversation.
Concluding Remarks: Overall this movie does a great job of making the audience think a bit more about their understanding of God and his activity or inactivity in the world. It clearly points out that we are not God for a reason (mainly because we are sinners and would abuse God’s powers to elevate ourselves) and that it’s good that God’s in control and see’s the bigger picture of our lives. It urges us to surrender to God’s will and to find fulfillment in the places in which God has placed us to serve.