Rated: PG Grade: BBBAB=B
Directed by: Tom Shadyac, who previously directed Bruce Almighty, Patch Adams, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Jonah Hill, John Michael Higgins, and Wanda Sykes.
Summary: Newly elected to Congress on the pledge to “change the world,” Evan Baxter is visited by God and told to build an ark. He must wrestle with the ongoing inconveniences which God puts him through to get him to do this while also deciding whether to partner with senior Congressman Chuck Long a land-use bill as he struggles to be a good husband and father.
Entertainment Value: B The plot is mostly intriguing, and I love Morgan Freeman, but a lot of the humor is unfunny and juvenile: poop jokes and slapstick pretty much cover it. My wife and I had the same reaction to this follow up to Bruce Almight: it was nowhere near as funny. In spite of being less funny than it should have been and less plausible than it could have been, what keeps this movie interesting is the substance of it, in spite of what is on top. Even though the end scene is completely unbelievable, you still want to like the movie. The dancing in the end credits just weirded me out.
Superficial Content: B Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality A, Violence B, Language A, Illegality B The PG is for rude humor and some peril, notably the end scenes. Birds pooping on people is the worst of the bad humor. The B for illegality is that the ark does not have the proper permits apparently. Otherwise, this is clean, and I particularly liked the lack of profanity from Evan when he injures himself working on the ark.
Significant Content: A On the surface, there are things to be less than enthusiastic about, but underneath, this movie is outstanding. Any movie where God is at the center of it must get bonus points just for that fact. Good themes include the importance of trusting God, the importance of doing what your conscience knows to be right, and that God will punish those who use their power for selfish gain. And, wait for the trumpets, a movie where the wife is mistaken and must choose to be loyal to her husband for better or for worse. But my personal favorite aspect of the movie is that it gives you a real sense of what things might have been like for the historical Noah by putting a modern guy through similar paces. The only negative, such as it is, is the environmentalist theme here. But even that doesn’t bother me much since historical Christianity and conservatism are both concerned with being good stewards of God’s Creation.
Artistic/Thought Value: B For thought value, not artistic quality. In an effort to be silly enough to remain interesting to children, the movie loses me as an adult. However, it could be subtle genius by the producers in just the same way that the purpose of a children’s sermon is really to reach the adults (otherwise why do them in the main service rather than just in the classroom). But the themes, man, the themes. Families are strengthened by stress. Loyalty is only meaningful when you don’t want to be. Obedience to what makes sense is only obedience to yourself. Great stuff there.
- Morgan Freeman says that the point of the Noah story is not about God’s wrath but about His mercy. What do you think?
- Does it bother you to see God portrayed as a man in a movie? Are you glad to see it be a black man like Morgan Freeman? Does Freeman portray God in a way that fits your understanding of His character?
- The original promise to Noah was to not destroy the earth again by a flood. How does that knowledge affect your view of this plot?
- Noah was a man of faith and righteousness whom God called to a mighty task. Evan was a man of no faith whom God coerced to do a mighty task. What do you make of this contrast
- Have you ever felt like God was telling you to do something that didn’t make sense? What did you do?
- Does it seem like Evan has any choice about whether he will participate in God’s plans? Would you call him obedient?
- What acts of random kindness can you think of practicing?
- When we pray for virtues like patience and family unity, does God grant those as a gift or does He give us processes that might produce them?
- When the ark is built and the rains haven’t come, the family tempts Evan to view the “flood” as a metaphor. Is the movie saying something deeper here?
- What should be our attitude toward the environment as Christians?
Overall Grade: B It’s surely no masterpiece, but it’s just as surely well-worth watching. And given the No Man’s Land in Hollywood between overtly religious movies like Passion of the Christ and the ordinary fare, seeing something like this is very encouraging.