was with a group of friends last year when I first saw the trailer
for Bruce Almighty. It depicted Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, a down-on-his-luck
news reporter who, when he rails against God for dropping the ball,
is "handed the reigns" and instructed to see if he can
do a better job running the world (or part of it, anyway). He then
proceeded to use his powers to do some naughty things.
commented, almost in unison, on the obvious blasphemy. I found the
basic premise interesting, but since it appeared to mock one of
the defining attributes of God, his omnipotence, I expected it to
make me very angry.
months later, I saw the trailer again, but this time, a question
occurred to me. Had God been doing these things, of course, this
would be blasphemous. But is it blasphemous to show a sinful man
making bad decisions? After all, we remember how hotheaded Peter
wanted to use his power to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan
village (Luke 9:54-56), and was strongly rebuked by Jesus.
this point, I realized that the film could go in one of two directions.
I hoped that it would take a Judeo-Christian worldview, showing
that mankind has major problems, no matter how much power is given
to them. But I feared it might take a humanist approach, and portray
power as the only thing we need.
I researched the film further, I discovered that the director, Tom
Shadyac (Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Dragonfly)
was a professing Christian. At this point, my interest was piqued.
I hoped for the best, but I was prepared for anything.
film begins with Bruce, a "wacky" television reporter
with a knack for making people laugh, working his standard assignment;
a syrupy sweet human-interest story. But for someone who claims
Walter Kronkite as his hero, covering the baking of Buffalo, New
York's largest cookie is somewhat less than rewarding.
complains to his girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Anniston, Friends,
The Good Girl), about what
he sees as his mediocre life, and blames every one of his problems
on God, whom he compares to a kid sitting by an anthill with a magnifying
glass, tormenting him.
level of his self absorption is truly revealed in one of my favorite
shots in the film. As Bruce sits, late for work, in a monstrous
traffic jam, he beats the steering wheel and yells out, "This
is my luck!" just as paramedics wheel a man in a full neck
and back brace past Bruce's window.
course, Bruce's day goes downhill from there, the worst moment occurring
when he finds out, while waiting to go on the air, that the promotion
he wanted went to his workplace nemesis, Evan Baxter (hilariously
played by Steven Carell, The Daily Show). He loses it and says the
f-word while still on the air, which results in his getting fired.
along with a number of other events, causes Bruce to scream out
at God. "You're the one who should be fired," he says,
and challenges Him, "Smite me, O mighty smiter!"
(Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy, The
Shawshank Redemption) responds, but rather than smiting
Bruce, he summons him to a sparse industrial loft where he offers
Bruce a job. God will temporarily give him all of his power, since
Bruce seems to think that he can do a better job. There are two
rules, though. Bruce can't tell anyone that he's god, and he can't
"mess with free will."
Bruce is only given the power of God, and not the wisdom. He proceeds
to make a huge mess of things, resulting in everything from natural
disasters to financial calamities. And when Grace becomes fed up
with his immaturity and leaves, a broken Bruce says to God, "How
do you make someone love you without affecting free will?"
God replies, "Welcome to my world. When you figure that one
out, let me know."
undergoes a dramatic change throughout the course of this film.
The "sinful" choices he makes in the beginning (upon which
the trailer focuses), are presented as negative, and the fact that
there are consequences for these actions is made clear.
he never prays the "sinner's prayer," he definitely has
what I would call a "conversion experience." He literally
falls on his knees before God and cries out, "I surrender to
complain that this film doesn't clearly present the Gospel of Jesus,
and that's true, it doesn't. But it does focus on man's weakness
in contrast with God's wisdom and love. In fact, Bruce ultimately
realizes that true love for someone else comes only through seeing
him or her through God's eyes.
the trailer presents the film as a comedy that makes light of God,
the film itself does just the opposite. God, as presented in this
film, is loving, wise, graceful, and yes, holy. He has a sense of
humor, but never laughs at a joke that is not above reproach.
ultimate message: God is infinitely wiser and more loving than we
are (Isa 55:9), but he still expects us to do what we can to care
for each other (John 13:35). God is always there when we need him
(Jer. 33:3), but we shouldn't expect him to use miracles to solve
all of our earthly problems (James 1:3).
ultimate solution to the real problems of life come through the
finished work of Christ on the cross. Bruce Almighty doesn't communicate
that truth, but it doesn't deny it, either. (After all, does It's
a Wonderful Life or The Sound of Music
communicate the Gospel of Christ?)
Almighty is simply intended to plant a seed. It's up to
God to bring the increase.