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Bruce Almighty

If you're one of those elite movie stars who makes $20 million per picture, please grab a Post-It™ and jot this down:

You know that thing you were doing that was making you $20 mil a pop? Keep doing that. At least, if you still want to make more money every year than the GDP of Montserrat.

Not to bore people with formalities, but somewhere along the way it seemed Jim Carrey missed this strategy meeting, or perhaps he accidentally erased one of his agent's messages. His turn as Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman's Man on the Moon (1999) was well received in some quarters, but it certainly didn't light the box-office on fire. And while Frank Darabont's The Majestic (2001) may have had its sentiments in the right place, it really didn't deliver the Jim Carrey his fans know and love and shell out big bucks for. So come on Jim, we know you mean well and have a good heart and are probably a thoughtful guy when you're at home reading The Portable Joyce, but really, could ya just make another movie and, y'know… spaz out, and stuff like that? Thankfully, the almighty Carrey heard his fans' prayers with Bruce Almighty (2003), a quirky comedy that arrived after the actor took a two-year break. Designed to put him back on the map, it did more than that, becoming a monstrous $242 million hit. Carrey stars as Bruce Nolan, a TV reporter at a Buffalo, N.Y., affiliate who's been consigned to the "human interest" slot, doing taped spots on things like the city's largest cookie, designed to run during the broadcast's waning minutes. Pushing 40, Bruce thinks he deserves a shot at the anchor's desk, but when he's passed over he takes his rage out on God Himself, insisting that the Lord is either indifferent or intent on making his life a living hell. But it's only a matter of time before Bruce comes face-to-face with a mysterious older man (Morgan Freeman) who says he's going on a vacation, and then grants the TV reporter the powers of a Deity. Bruce agrees not to interfere with the freewill of others, but before long he discovers that being God is not the free ride it sounds like. Deftly tiptoeing around any material that could appear disrespectful or blasphemous, Bruce Almighty is a slender, sweet tale that reminds one of another big hit from a few decades back, Oh God! (1977), which brought the eternally boyish John Denver face to face with George Burns for a similarly cautious allegory. And when it comes to casting, there are many more Everymen than Deities in the Hollywood pantheon — just as ramshackle Burns was note-perfect with his homespun wisdom, Morgan Freeman's statesmanlike gravitas makes him an ideal Higher Being, a persona he's more than willing to toy with (snatching Bruce from the Earthly realm, God tells him he's dead, only to jab "Nah, I'm just messin' with ya.") As live-in girlfriend Grace, Jennifer Aniston phones in the sort of part she can do in her sleep after countless seasons on "Friends," and she's likable enough. But that $242 million in swag is all Jim Carrey — there are folks who doubtless will insist Bruce Almighty is a perfectly idiotic film, and they're probably right. But it will take the most heartless of viewers to insist this without several jolts of involuntary laughter as Carrey delivers a live-feed mental meltdown, goes mano a mano with a local gang of toughs, invents a variety of news stories to propel his career, afflicts his main rival with on-air verbal paralysis, and wades through millions of prayers that turn up in his e-mail. We don't care if they call you a spaz, Jim — we still think you're worth every last cent. Universal's DVD release of Bruce Almighty features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include a commentary with director Tom Shadyac, the featurette "The Process of Jim," deleted scenes with commentary, outtakes, cast and crew notes, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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