In "Bruce Almighty," funnyman Jim Carrey plays a disgruntled TV news reporter (and disenchanted Catholic) who blames God for the crummy condition of his life. Enter God, played by Morgan Freeman, who endows Carrey with all his godly powers. Ultimately, Carrey learns that being omnipotent is no walk in the water park.
Does "Bruce Almighty" have a prayer at the box office? We asked a skeptic, Valley native Monty Gaither, the Arizona state director of American Atheists, Madeleine Murray O’Hare’s old outfit.
Tribune: So, Monty, I have to ask: "Bruce Almighty": Harmless fluff, or Judeo-Christian propaganda?
Gaither: I wouldn’t call it propaganda, but it proves that Hollywood is not anti-Judeo-Christian. People keep saying that, but there are so many examples that prove otherwise.
Tribune: Such as?
Gaither: Well, "The 10 Commandments," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Godspell" — and then if you go to TV, "Touched by Angel," or that movie where the guy loses his body and comes back as a quarterback . . .
Tribune: "Heaven Can Wait."
Gaither: Right. They’ve remade that one three times. And then Jimmy Stewart in "It’s a Wonderful Life." There’s a whole host of examples.
Tribune: So do you feel these movies reinforce harmful impressions? Were you reluctant to take your son to "Bruce Almighty"?
Gaither: No, because my son knows that Christian mythology is no better than Norse mythology or Greek mythology. It didn’t bring up any questions he hasn’t already been exposed to, but he’s a big Jim Carrey fan, so he enjoyed it. He didn’t understand the sexual innuendo.
Tribune: So it gets the atheist vote. Do you think Christians and monotheists will enjoy it?
Gaither: Out of curiosity, I checked out several Christian Web sites, and these pundits said most Christians would like it if given a chance. But I imagine most will not see it based on the previews.
Tribune: That’s interesting, because of course the previews only play up the fantasy fulfillment aspects of the movie: Making your wife’s boobs bigger, getting the job you want, etc.
Tribune: But in the last act, the last 30 or so minutes, it becomes a message movie, doesn’t it? Be generous. Be gracious. Accept your lot.
Gaither: I’m sure for some there was a message in there. Not all will see the message. Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman, they’re the only reasons to see the movie. Everything else was so predictable, like the scene in the diner where (Bruce) parts the red soup . . . like he was parting the Red Sea? Ha-ha.
Tribune: You’re right. It was entirely predictable. Very rote. We meet Bruce, his problems are laid out for us: His dog pees on the furniture, he always gets stuck in gridlock, career is in the dumps, and then — ka-ching! — he rectifies these problems one by one. Like knocking down pins.
Gaither: The scene where he makes the monkey fly out of the one guy’s butt, that was only surprising gag in there.
Tribune: To me, the theme of the movie seemed to be that you can’t pin all your problems on God. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly anti-atheistic concept.
Gaither: No, you can’t blame a mythical creature for problems you have, or to solve those problems. That you have to work to take care of your own problems is a very atheistic concept.
Tribune: So maybe we’re on the same page here.
Gaither: One thing I saw in the movie that Christians typically don’t see: There’s either an omnipotent being or you have free will, you can’t have both. For instance, there’s the scene where Bruce pulls the moon in closer to his apartment, but he didn’t anticipate that it would cause flooding. So he couldn’t be all-knowing. Tribune: So, in fact, is this movie secretly undermining the concept of a monotheistic creator being? Undermining Christianity as we know it?
Gaither: No, I don’t think Christians will notice that.
Tribune: And how about those stars, Monte. Out of four, how many would you give it?
Gaither: I found it enjoyable. I wish my dog could do the toilet thing. I’d probably give it two-and-a-half. Only because of Jim Carrey.
Tribune: I gave it two-and-ahalf, too. Carrey’s, you know, manic energy is the best thing going for it: Ad-libbing, making faces, acting the goat. I loved the scene where he impersonated Walter Cronkite. But then, (the movie) becomes extremely labored and preachy. It’s about a selfish man who becomes selfless, and that’s a good message, that’s fine, but it felt really hollow here.
Gaither: I also like everything Morgan Freeman does. He carries that air of distinguished gentleman about him.
Tribune: Yes, he’s very reassuring. So if there was a God, would you like him to be Morgan Freeman?
Gaither: Hmm, no. Because he didn’t solve any problems (in the movie).