HD DVD Title: Evan Almighty (Combo)
Screen format: 2.35:1 1080P VC-1 Encoded HD
First theatrical release: June 27, 2007
Previously released on DVD or BluRay: Releases day and date with Widescreen DVD
Director: Tom Shadyac
Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman
Sound Formats: Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes
Steve Carell takes over for Jim Carrey as God’s chosen to handle his affairs on Earth in this “sequel” to Bruce Almighty. Evan Baxter (Carell) is a successful TV anchor and recent Congressman-elect. But Evan is having issues with his work/life balance, and his family, led by wife Joan (Graham), takes the worst of it missing out on having him around and dealing with his missed promises. Also, while his campaign slogans promise to help make things better, he is oblivious to the choices he is making personally which are not very eco-friendly, such as driving a monster truck, buying a house that is way to big, and using materials that deplete the rain forest. Echoing some of Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk’s earlier works, one of Evan’s son’s prayers come true. To answer the prayer, God sets a plan in motion that will surely bring the whole family together: building an ark, ala Noah. In fact, Evan starts to take on the appearance of Noah, growing a beard and long flowing white hair, all of which makes things pretty difficult on the hill, where he is needed to shore up the political aspirations of elder statesman Chuck Long (Goodman). Even worse are the animals which have started following Evan around, two by two, pressing him to get on with it and get his ark built.
It’s telling that the estimated cost of making Evan Almighty was around $175 million and that the worldwide gross has been in the neighborhood of $168 Million. Simply put, Carell is not Carrey and Evan is simply not as funny as the first Almighty. Despite having truckloads of animals inserted into each scene, both by computer and terrifically talented handlers, despite having the kind of pedigree of cast and crew that Evan has, and despite Carell’s own misapplied talents, this film falls flat because so much attention was paid to being safe and proper that it feels forced and stilted. Even Freeman is barely a presence, with a singular CG heavy scene to carry his contribution outside of minor preaching at the end. And it IS a very preachy movie, with little to explain WHY Evan becomes Noah and that his personal flood is in an area roughly 40 square miles and not world wide. Surely the problems that Evan faces are global and not restricted to the DC beltway. It all just comes off as a glorified Sunday morning version of an “After School Special.”
If you are a parent looking for a good wholesome movie for your kids, I’m certain Evan will be a welcome choice. Evan doesn’t even cuss after he bangs his thumb with a hammer. For those looking for a little bit more intellectual, witty or fun, willingly suspending disbelief for this one might be a bit of a stretch.
Sound Quality: 3.5/5
Evan has an understated but truly three dimensional sound track that really is best felt in the brief flood scene, where some decent bass effects and mild panning help add a sense of drama. Other than that, the score again features the stylings of John Debney, and it unsurprisingly echos the vibe of his prior work in both Bruce Almighty as well as Liar Liar, which in fact is a good thing. One gets the feeling that the soundtrack was a bit of an afterthought here, it did afterall cost a bundle to add all the visual effects. But while Debney’s score isn’t be the most recognizable asset that the movie has to offer, it is cheery for the most part and stirringly swells along with the flood.
Visual Quality: 4/5
The animals are clearly the stars of the show here, and it’s fascinating that someone like Carell could almost be upstaged by them. The animated and composited elements are well integrated into the film (and the ark is especially well done during the flood), so there isn’t much to add on that front.
The transfer itself is quite clean and lively, free of either dust or damage, and likewise free of digital artifacts of any kind. Noise is mostly well contained which is not surprising since most scenes are out doors with the few indoors scenes taking place in well lit buildings. Color rendition is fairly good, but with few places to point at as having been notable. It simply looks good without calling attention to itself in most respects, with one exception being the sharpness of faces. Once again I find that while most long shots are very sharp, any time facial close-ups are dealt with there’s a layer of murk that simply doesn’t hold up to all that HD has to offer. It’s a bit nit picky, but it is jarring to see once it happens.
Extra Features: 4/5
Universal has seen fit to expand the capabilities of U-control once again, this time adding in an online store among other options. I haven’t personally tried that out yet but will add my thoughts below once I’ve done that. In addition, there’s a decent selection of additional U-control elements that continue to improve this feature. Outside of that there are a half dozen featurettes, including: Animals on Set, which details the wrangling of the live action animals; Carell Unscripted which shows Steve performing his characteristic ad-libbing during multiple takes; Becoming Noah which shows some of Carells transformation into a bearded Noah; and a handful of others, most of which either focus on Shadyac’s new green obsession (he bought bikes for use on set by the entire cast and crew) or further detail the animal handling. It’s interesting to note that Carell introduces many of these, and although it’s a bit disjointed, it looks like many of those introductions were taken from a larger plan, which never got fully built.
Overall: 2.5/5 (not an average)
It’s hard to say much more about Evan Almighty knowing that I really disliked this film, I personally was a bit let down that it didn’t have the edginess that Carell is famous for or the sharp wit that was found in Bruce Almighty. While there were a few laughs, it wasn’t nearly on the scale I was looking for and I guess I’m not the target audience here but thinking back on how this film was actually marketed I feel that I have a right to be let down, it wasn’t marketed as a kids movie it was wrongly marketed as taking the best of Carell and Shadyac and putting out a true sequel to Bruce, and that’s obviously not what we ended up with.
Sure the Audio is clean and features a decent score, and the video is adequate, and there’s a decent batch of extras including some innovative (if wallet puncturing) use of U-control, but when the funniest part of a movie is an admittedly dorky dance and a couple of raccoons able to pull off some tricks that make them act human, I can’t really get all that excited.