Friday, July 6, 2007


When I was younger and had to take an aspirin for some reason, my mother knew she was in for a fight because I was a reluctant pill-swallower. One day, on the advice of a friend, she tried a different approach. Mom crushed the aspirin into small pieces and put it in a teaspoon of honey. I swallowed that concoction without any complaints since it was tasty and I didn’t even feel like I was taking medicine.

The recent comedy “Evan Almighty” does something similar. It feeds you positive spiritual and social messages in a context where you’re laughing and not always aware there’s something else in it for you.

Newly elected Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) and his wife Joan (Lauren Graham) move into a new home with their three sons. Before Evan arrives for his first day of work, he starts getting supernatural messages that refer to Genesis 6:14, the story of Noah’s ark. Eventually, God (Morgan Freeman) reveals Himself to be the messenger and tries to persuade Evan to build an ark because there’s a flood coming.

As much as Evan tries to resist, he accepts the fact that this is his destiny. He proceeds in faith and follows God’s plan despite opposition from family, co-workers and society at large. And yes, hilarity ensues! That’s largely thanks to the charisma and comedy chops of Steve Carell along with a script and director who know how to use him.

“Evan Almighty” made me laugh within the first 30 seconds so I was predisposed to like the rest of the film – which I did. In an age where God is often depicted as a source of violence and hatred, it felt good to see a movie portray the Almighty more like I perceive Him to be: loving, compassionate, understanding, joyful and -at times –disappointed.

The spiritually-minded, practicing Catholic director Tom Shadyac manages to portray God with all these qualities without sacrificing the notion that God’s ways aren’t always our ways. We need to trust that He knows what’s best for us even when that seems difficult. After going through some particularly tough situations, Evan looks toward heaven and says to God, “Everything you do is because you love me...but could you love me a little less?" I for one have had that feeling many times.

“Evan Almighty” also offers a novel perspective on answered prayers. In a pivotal scene regarding the story’s message, Evan’s wife Joan – who earlier in the film had prayed for her family to grow closer - can’t get her head around what her husband is doing. God responds, “When people pray for patience, do you think God grants them patience? Or opportunities to be patient? When people pray for courage, do you think God grants them courage? Or opportunities to be courageous? When people pray to grow closer to their family do you think God sends along warm, fuzzy feelings? Or the opportunity to spend more time with family?”

I like the fact that individuals are given responsibility here. Many times, we pray expecting God to fix what’s wrong in our lives. That doesn’t require any effort from us. The movie points out that God offers us opportunities - but it’s up to us to get the most out of those opportunities. Like the old Christmas cartoon said, “Even a miracle needs a hand.”

Granted, it’s hard to miss the messages in “Evan” which are occasionally laid on a little thick. But the laughs are steady throughout so even if things feel heavy one minute, they get lighter the next.

“Evan Almighty” is worth seeing regardless of your age. It will give you some good laughs and might even leave you with a better perspective on life and God.

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