Friday, June 22, 2007

Evan Almighty: A Review

Ah, the movies! We gorge ourselves on them just as we do on the popcorn, skittles, and soft drinks that go with them. Sometimes we swallow the most unhealthy of snacks without thinking; so also we can swallow whatever the silver screen throws at us. And then we go home... and think nothing of it.

"Ya see that movie, "Blah Blah: Revenge of the Whatever?" "Yeah, we saw it. It was pretty good."

But deep down we thought it stunk. We know Hollywood could do better. Heck, WE could do better! How can we take our kids to stuff like this?

Enter "Evan Almighty"....

Tagged as "a comedy of biblical proportions", I got to see a private screening last night, along with about 300 of my closest friends from all over the tri-state area. Now to be honest, I was ready for cheese. I saw the trailers. I thought the insta-beard thing was weird, and the animals crawling from behind every bush was just a wee bit.... outlandish. I figured this was just another attempt of Hollywood's newly formed Christian Department to toss a bone to believers. "Heck, that Passion of the Christ movie brought them out of the woodwork! Who knew?"

But in the first 5 minutes, I found myself smiling.... impressed.... even delighted. I guess I came in with a pretty arrogant attitude! Granted, we have good reason to be suspect. Most of these films are so generic, so wimpy (going back to George Burns with Oh God I, II, and wasn't there a III? and Bruce Almighty); they're hardly biblical. They're like cream of wheat, or oatmeal. None of the spice of the gospel. And in these films about God showing up as an old man in the 21st century, there never seems to be a real acknowledgement of the fact that He already came, and that God now does in fact have a face: it's Jesus.

So that being said, if you put that aside and meet this film, Evan Almighty where it is.... in the midst of a secular society, grown fat and sluggish with materialist philosophy and capitalism, then it does have a few gems to treasure and timeless truths that ring loud and clear. Here are a few thoughts of mine (please feel free to share your own):

Morgan Freeman is a better God than George Burns, I have to admit. He's just so smooth. And he has a host of great one liners in this film.

(As Evan drives to work, God appears in the backseat of the car and Evan screams at the top of his lungs. Morgan Freeman says "Let it out, son. It's the beginning of wisdom.")

There are powerful lessons about stewardship, self-sacrifice, family love and the place of work sprinkled throughout the movie. Evan learns much as he is literally stripped of an unhealthy preoccupation with himself, and his obsession with being neat. He eventually does choose, albeit almost too reluctantly, to do what God asks of him, even at the risk of losing his job and the affection and understanding of his wife and three sons. He also learns the key to life: a right relationship with God. In their first meeting, Evan asks the Stranger Morgan Freeman, "Do I know you?" and the answer comes "Not as well as I'd like you too." (NICE!)

One of my favorite scenes takes place (OK, spoiler) in a diner between God and Evan's wife. She's despondent and feels like Evan has become unreachable. When a Mysterious Waiter appears, He draws out her sorrow and offers some powerful insights to help her. "When a person asks God for patience," He says to her, "should God just give them patience, or opportunities to become more patient?" "If a person asks for courage, should God just give them courage, or opportunities for them to be courageous?" That's good stuff....

All in all, Evan Almighty is a happy film with plenty of laughs and good lessons for the whole family. It's family, in fact, that ends up being the real treasure here; a treasure that the Baxters almost lost and then found again. The overall message was clear; we ourselves should be faithful, side by side, two by two as it were, loving each other in the simplest of ways; performing Acts of Random Kindness for God and others is how we too can build our own ARK, gather others in, and therefore with Him, change the world.

For a more scrutinizing and in depth review of the film, read Steven D. Greydanus' article here.
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