The movie Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman is considered a comedy, a drama and a fantasy movie in terms of genre but most prominently, a comedy. Bruce Almighty could be viewed several times and still be enjoyed. Bruce Almighty is a funny movie yet with the drama of a couple dealing with some issues is also explored. This movie is for everyone. The movie Bruce Almighty is directed by Tom Shadyac in 2003 and written by Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekerk. (www.universalstudiosentertainment.com). The purpose of this paper is to deliver my own critique of the movie Bruce Almighty and present what I have learned throughout the course, Introduction to Film. The paper is going to analyze how the basic elements are organized to deliver certain implications. I will be using the formalist approach, including elements such as plot structure, mise en scène, camera techniques, editing and sound. The paper will include hidden meanings and messages the movie is infusing as well.
Bruce Almighty stars Jim Carrey as Bruce Nolan, Jennifer Aniston as Grace, (Bruce’s girlfriend) Steve Carell as Evan Baxter (Bruce’s co-worker) and Morgan Freeman is none other than God himself, always dressed in whimsical, head-to-toe white attire. The setting of this movie takes place in Buffalo, New York as Bruce Nolan is a local Eyewitness News TV reporter with dreams of being an anchorman rather than covering human interest stories around town. Bruce is up for consideration for the upcoming open position of anchorman, however, his co-worker Evan Baxter is also being considered for the position. Bruce is excited to do a live taping of 23rd anniversary of Niagra Falls’ famous Maid of the Mist boat; he feels it is his big break and may put him in the position he desires. Unfortunately, just before the news team cuts to Bruce’s live coverage of the event, Evan Baxter is awarded the anchorman position. It is just too much for Bruce to handle and he has a meltdown right there on live television. Millions of viewers see Bruce at
his worst moment, Bruce cannot even speak and when he does it is not good as he is cursing and all of a sudden he does not care whatsoever about the event. Of course, for an outburst of this severity, Bruce gets fired. Along with some other events going wrong Bruce just cannot take the string of bad luck and challenges God. Strange things begin to happen and Bruce is led to an empty building and God (Morgan Freeman) offers him the role to see if he can do any better. The only thing Bruce is not allowed to do is mess with people’s free will. These events are just the beginning of the storyline because once Bruce is given the power of God, the movie gets very interesting! The movie delivers a powerful message about God to people without being overbearing. The movie is light and funny and reminds us that there is someone up above.
The movie, Bruce Almighty demonstrates the problem with playing God. We are shown just what would happen if such powers were entrusted to a human, short-term goals tend to be valued higher than long-term improvement plans. Bruce answers all of the Buffalo’s prayers a yes. Bruce allowed several people to win the lottery and each of those people had to split the jackpot leaving each person with about $16. The prayers were of the selfish nature, money and better bodies; even Bruce was only thinking of himself and what the powers of God could do for him. Grace apparently prayed for a bigger bust as she woke up the next morning with much more on her plate, so to speak! Bruce has his dog trained, using the toilet just like a human being and even putting the toilet seat down afterwards. Bruce’s dog is even reading the newspaper, which is a cute use of special effects that had the audiences roaring with laughter. Bruce’s did not wait in traffic in his brand new super sports-car; he simply directed all of the cars to pull over and out of his way! Bruce even did the ultimate walking on water marvel. Bruce really only cared about himself and his own well-being. However, not so much for everyone else; when you’re God, you cannot just think only of yourself.
The actors of the movie Bruce Almighty are all considered stars. They are all very talented A-list actors. A star is a distinctive screen persona, who is well–known and popular with the public, most people become interested in
a star’s personal life. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). When a movie has casted several stars to act in it than the movie receives quite a bit of attention in the media; people are excited to go see the movie and dvd sales are expected to be higher. According to the text, Film: From Watching to Seeing, method acting requires that actors draw on their own memories and experiences to reach the heart of a character, so that they more genuinely feel the emotions they’re portraying instead of just pretending to” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011.) The actors in Bruce Almighty do just that, they play their characters with emotion and feeling and it makes for a very believable storyline. This is shown in the scene when Bruce Nolan has his meltdown on live television. He is showing that he is human and he has had it up to his eyebrows with bad luck. The scenes when he expresses such hurt and regret for his girlfriend Grace, he just wants her to love him and we as an audience can feel that as well as relate to it.
Cinematography determines exactly how we see it the movie and means to write with movement. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). The cinematography was done by Dean Semler in the movie, Bruce Almighty. The lighting in the movie seems normal everyday television sitcom lighting, nothing special until Bruce meets God, then everything gets extremely bright and the surroundings are all white which makes things appear even brighter. The director made a good choice when choosing Morgan Freeman to play God as his voice is extremely soft, yet powerful. Freeman plays God with a quality of warm detachment that is perfect. The audience knows that even while he’s giving Bruce the free ride, he has a hand on the wheel, like a drivers’ training instructor. While the setting takes place in Buffalo, New York it was actually shot on the West coast at Universal Studios. They had to do some research in order to successfully recreate the city of Buffalo. According to Jim Carrey Online (www.jimcarreyonline.com), a Bruce Almighty second unit traveled to Buffalo, shooting several establishing shots, aerial shots and visual effects plates of everything from cityscapes to Niagara Falls, all of which would be seamlessly interwoven into the film by the editors and visual effects supervisor Bill Taylor. The movie was actually shot on a huge exterior set on the Universal back lot which had been converted into a huge chunk of Buffalo, New York by production designer Linda DeScenna. They had literally
recreated Buffalo, New York, incorporating Buffalo architecture, color, feeling and even street names, and were even given permission to use the call letters for an actual Buffalo television station at which Bruce Nolan is a reporter. They had made realistic looking storefronts to line the streets of their recreated Buffalo along with an actual public transportation bus from Buffalo, New York. For the scene in which Bruce Nolan suffers his live on-air meltdown from the famed Maid of the Mist boat which carries passengers close to Niagara Falls, a tremendous green screen cyclorama was constructed on Universal Studios back lot. A nearly full-scale replica of the Maid of the Mist was mounted on gimbals, and Taylor’s task would be to tie all of the elements together with visual effects plates actually shot at the Falls, creating an uncanny impression of full-scale realism. (www.jimcarreyonline.com) A majority of the visual effects shots as well as those relying on green screen techniques were shot outside rather than sound stages. “Blue screen and green screen techniques allow for images to be shot for background use, and for actors to later be shot separately; the two images are then blended using a traveling matte for a realistic effect” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). “Tom and Dean Semler, director of photography, was enthusiastic about the idea of shooting as much of this composite work outdoors in natural sunlight,” explains Taylor. “The scope of a scene such as the one in which Bruce and God walk on Lake Erie would be almost impossible to create on a sound stage, and it would certainly be nearly impossible to light with the stunning soft ambience that Dean shot. It adds greatly to the realism.” (www.jimcarreyonline). Bruce Almighty is shot in chronological order; all of the events take place in sequential order. Bruce Almighty utilizes direct cuts. “Viewers see one shot instantly replaced by another one after a cut, the action flows smoothly from one shot to the next, direct cuts are usually just taken for granted by viewers if they are noticed at all” (Goodykoontx & Jacobs, 2011). Bruce Almighty uses continuity editing which involves cutting to different camera positions while maintaining the illusion that everything is happening in a continuous time and space. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). Bruce Almighty has a good flow and the viewer does not realize the various cuts and transitions as they are into the movie, which is what the director wants. The most prominent of sound categories in Bruce Almighty is dialogue. The movie has
quite a bit of dialogue in it especially since Bruce’s job entails delivering the news. Bruce Almighty has many catch phrases that became popular after people viewed this movie, such as B-E-A-utiful and “it’s good.” The movie has several sound effects as well, in the scene where Bruce first receives his powers as God; he begins to hear several thousand people whispering while he and Grace are at dinner. He thinks it is the people in the restaurant and tells everyone to quiet down; he’s talking loudly as well and embarrassing Grace. The loud whispering continues until Bruce figures out a way to answer the prayers. The scene at Niagra Falls is prerecorded as they are not really at the Falls. There is use of score music which is background music throughout the movie. The scene where Bruce lowers the moon and him and Grace see a meteor has great use of sound and score music. It is a romantic moment as well. According to the list of cast and crew, Bruce Almighty uses Foley artists for many of their sounds. Foley artists are people who make every day sound effects for movies. These people go to great lengths to develop perfect sounds for movies and get extremely creative. (www.jimcarreyonline). Tom Shadyac directed this movie and had a hand in the producing process as well. Tom Shadyac is the owner of well-known production company Shady Acres Entertainment. According to Jim Carrey’s unofficial fan site, Bruce Almighty was Shadyac and Carrey’s third collaboration together. Their first collaboration was Ace Ventura-Pet Detective (1994) and the second collaboration was Liar Liar (1997). Shadyac’s style of directing is comedy as he has directed several other well known, hilarious movies that were very successful. The overall theme in Bruce Almighty is religion. At the beginning of Bruce Almighty, Bruce is very negative and feels as if God is out to get him; he feels as God could make his life better but chooses not to. Bruce is angry and when given the chance to do God’s job than everything gets messed up and Bruce is overwhelmed. It reminds us that we are one person out of millions and millions of people that God is to hear. The overall message is for people to look inside themselves for strength rather than praying to God for miracles and help when we already have what it takes to make a difference. This film has the opportunity to get people thinking about spirit. When things are not going right in one’s life, it is not time to blame God for our problems. It is time for us to figure out what we can do differently to make a better
life for ourselves. I wanted to discuss a couple of the mise en scenes from Bruce Almighty. One of them that had a hidden meaning that I will be honest I never understood until writing this paper. When Bruce’s beeper goes off and then he gets the address to go see about a great job; he arrives at a building called the Omni Presents Co. According to the dictionary, omnipresent is defined as being present everywhere at the same time much like God. This was such a pleasant play on words and so perfect for the name of the building in which Bruce meets God. When Bruce goes inside he finds the janitor played by Morgan Freeman and the janitor is busy screwing in an extremely bright light bulb. He asks Bruce if the light is too bright and Bruce answers that it is fine. The janitor replies, “Most people don’t like the light because they live their lives in the dark.” This is another true statement about most people and religion. Some people truly are in the dark about God and live a very selfish life. I just thought that these plays on words were a nice fit for the movie and to open people’s eyes up. It gave the movie a nice touch and what it would be like to actually experience meeting God. There are several points of theology and deity. Bruce Almighty enhanced all of the wicked what if’s of being able to hold those kinds of powers but he could have done more good with it in my opinion. Upon looking at several different reviews for the movie Bruce Almighty, I learned that there are several different opinions. Some thought this was a mockery and others thought it was just hilarious. The movie impacted society differently. Some people though Bruce Almighty was a real eye opener and saw what is truly important in life. Others went deeper into the comparison of actual religion and the deity. Certain reviews mentioned exactly how many curse words were in this “religious” movie and did not appreciate it. Also, different mise en scenes were thought of as inappropriate such as when Bruce made a monkey return into a mugger’s behind. Bruce blew up a woman’s skirt up around her head to resemble a Marilyn Monroe pose. There were several things picked apart from this movie. I do not think it should have been dissected do much, it was meant to be funny. After all, its main character was Jim Carrey! People who watch movies are simply on a journey with the characters, watching to see what happens. Movies allow us to be whisked away from our own lives, troubles and worries and put into someone else’s life while feeling their feelings. However, a majority of the time while we are
watching movies, how often do we think about all of the work that went into the process of making the movie? We do not realize all of the hard work and the amount of people that worked on several tiny details of the movie which makes it a great viewing experience. This paper allowed me to explore all of the elements of film making that make them so impressive. All of the elements that I have learned in this course each generate feelings for us while watching movies. Sound, editing, acting, music and all the work to create a beautiful set are just naming a few of all of the amazing aspects of a movie. From writing the storyline to the special effects and the amount of creativity these people have who are working on these movies truly amazes me.
An Unofficial Fan site. Jim Carrey Online. 1996-2013. Retrieved from
http://www.jimcarreyonline.com/movies/brucealmighty.html?p=3 Goodykoontz , B.; Jacobs, C. P. (2011) Film: From Watching to Seeing. San Diego, CA;
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When the movie “Bruce Almighty” came out, the first thing we noticed was how many film critics were angry at the spiritual ending of this flick. So we decided to turn the tables on the critics and make them the issue. It worked. Our news release landed William Donohue on TV and it was discussed on the celebrity page of New York newspapers. Here’s how Donohue framed the issue:
“Louis Giovino, the Catholic League’s director of communications, came to work today expecting to see ‘Bruce Almighty’; the film has comedian Jim Carrey playing God. But then I noticed that so many movie critics were upset with the religious-laden ending to the flick. This made me very happy. Indeed, it made my day. Consider the following:
- Miami Herald: It “lacks the insane, anything-goes energy this premise deserved” and that’s because the director wants “to protect the feel-good fuzzies awaiting the final reel.” It also has an “insufferably schmaltzy, marshmallow ending.”
- New York Times: It has a “preachy, goody-goody conclusion.”
- Pitch Weekly (Kansas City): “By the time this comedy hits the top of its arc, Bruce has to pay the piper.” Which means that regrettably the film closes with “a surge of spiritual uplift.”
- Salon.com: “Given America’s religious climate” the director “didn’t want to risk offending anybody.”
- Saint Paul Pioneer Press: The movie was fine until it “switches, getting all ‘Patch Adams’ on us with an uplifting sermon on the importance of praying every day.”
- Rocky Mountain News: It ends with “a purifying third-act plunge into a font of sentiment.” It is unfortunate that “a reasonably funny comedy genuflects at the altar of director Frank Capra.”
- Newsday: “Unfortunately, religious fervor moves in and sinks the last 20 minutes.” Also, “You don’t have to be an atheist or an ACLU attorney to be creeped out by the movie’s lip-service spirituality, which panders to the common denominator….”
- AP: “The tone turns from wacky to preachy,” so much so that the movie “couldn’t keep this lapsed Catholic from praying that the film would end.”
“Isn’t it nice to know what offends movie critics these days?”