Laughs in ‘Evan Almighty’ not much beyond what’s seen in previews

“Evan Almighty” is a fun movie that is surprisingly wholesome.

Although it’s promoted as a sequel to “Bruce Almighty,” the movie stands on its own. Morgan Freeman (“Shawshank Redemption,” “The Power of One”) still plays God, but Steve Carell’s (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Office”) character, Evan Baxter, has a complete overhaul.

His promotion from news anchor to congressman happens within the first few minutes of the movie. He also has a wife and kids now, who are struggling to spend time with him.

“Evan Almighty,” as a whole, is well written with many “ah” moments that have more depth than just the face value. However, the overall structure of the plot feels forced and predictable.

It’s as if the writers decided they wanted to have a story about a Noah-like character who builds an ark, and they tried to squeeze everything else around that.

Unfortunately, adding to the predictability of the film is the fact that it was so well promoted. There are few scenes and laughs that the audience didn’t see in previews.

But it’s still an enjoyable film with plenty of humor. And there’s not much swearing in the movie, making it family-friendly. In fact, there are several memorable jokes that play off the characters’ not swearing.

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The movie also has several good messages woven throughout: have faith, follow your heart and stick together with your loved ones. And there are some scenes with God that will touch viewers’ hearts.

Unfortunately, “Evan Almighty” comes off as too preachy. It has an obvious agenda of environmentalism from the first scene. Perhaps that’s its greatest difference from “Bruce Almighty,” which was just a good-natured poke at people who think they can do a better job than God.

The acting, for the most part, is excellent. Morgan Freeman is convincing as God. Steve Carell is both funny and believable as a man who is torn between following God’s instructions and pursuing his career. However, his chemistry with his wife (Lauren Graham, “Because I Said So,” “Gilmore Girls”) is completely lacking. It would have been more believable if they had been roommates, work associates or even siblings. The kids’ acting is awkward as well.

The special effects that went into this film, however, are amazing. There are some really cool blue-screen scenes toward the end of the film. They also used a bit of CGI throughout the movie with the wide pans of the waiting animals.

The animals really are what make this movie. The ones that have big scenes with close-ups were obviously well trained. This leads to some very memorable scenes, like Evan drinking lemonade with the baboons – but, again, this shot was already seen numerous times in the previews.

Overall, this is a fun movie to watch and take the family to see, but it leaves the audience a little cold. Unfortunately, this is probably due to the fact it was too heavily promoted, which spoils a lot of the enjoyment.