Saturday, July 14, 2007

Movie Saturday: Evan Almighty Review

Considering the dirty jokes of the first “Almighty” movie, “Bruce Almighty,” and the unclean humor of other films of Steve Carell (“40 Year Old Virgin”) you would not expect the second “Almighty” film to come out clean either. Surprisingly enough, “Evan Almighty” cleans up pretty nicely. Not only that, “Evan” also keeps to Christian beliefs and contains many Christian themes.

Newly elected congressman, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), must make good on his promise to change to world, but he knows he can’t do it alone. His new job keeps him from spending time with his family. When his wife (Lauren Graham) tells him she prayed for the family to grow closer Evan decides to do a little praying himself and asks God for help. Of course, help never comes in the way we would like it and God (Morgan Freeman) responds to Evan’s prayers, making Evan the modern Moses.

First, God sends Evan several clues pointing to Genesis 6:14 which says, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” Next, Evan receives tools and wood from a company whose logo is a gopher. God, himself, shows up every once in a while to remind Evan of his assignment. Two by two, animals start to follow Evan wherever he goes. Evan tries to ignore God’s instructions, but the animals and a beard and long hair that grow back when cut and shaved get Evan in trouble at work. Evan’s wife leaves him and takes the children with her for a while. God gives her a pep talk to convince her to return. Everything seems wrong. God tells Evan He only does the things He does because He loves His people, but Evan does not understand and wishes God would love him a little less. Finally, the flood comes.
As a Christian, I worried that the flood would come from rain and wipe out a lot of people, thus ruining God’s original promise never to flood the earth again. The flood in “Evan” has little to do with rain, however. It does rain for ten minutes, but not enough to flood the earth. God does not commission Evan to build an ark to save a family from eminent doom and God does not condemn the world to drowning. Instead, God uses Evan to preserve the beauty of His creation. Another congressman (John Goodman) wants to make profit off of development in national parks and has already damned up the local river to make room for the valley Evan lives in. He also tries to get Evan in on his scheme, but God has other plans.

While I am no “tree hugger,” I do recognize that God commissioned humanity to take care of the earth. Yes, we are dominant over the rest of creation. Creation has its purpose, but as stewards of God it is also our job to take care of God’s creation.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:28-30)

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)

“Tend” and “keep” also mean to “serve” and guard.” In Numbers we see that these same terms are used to describe the priest with respect to taking care of the temple. Adam served as priest over all creation. Humanity should serve and guard the earth. We are unable to keep God’s original commandment to Adam to serve and guard the garden because of the fall. Our fallen, sinful nature keeps us from expanding the garden to the entire earth, but we can still strive to take care of God’s creation. That includes our fellow human beings. Christ brought hope, establishing the beginning of a new kingdom that will one day enable us to live in the perfect garden state once again. See Romans 8 for more detail.

Creation also forms a type of revelation that reminds us of our creator.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12: 7-10)

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13)

“Evan” also gives a description of God that does not hound the Bible or make fun of it. When God talks to Evan’s wife he comments on how most people think of Noah and the Ark as a story of condemnation, but in reality it is a story of love. God loved Noah and his family. He saved them from the flood. In the process, Noah’s family became closer. God explains that while everything seems so terrible at present, He is merely answering prayers. He asks Evan’s wife if a mother prays for the family to get closer together whether He would bring the family close or give the family the opportunity to grow closer. If a congressman asked for help in changing the world should God change the world in a flash or give the congressman the opportunity to change the world? Here we find that God answers our prayers, just not always in the ways we expect.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:7-9)

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)

In His talks with Evan, God tells Evan the way to change the world is with one act of random kindness (ARK) at a time. In other words, God wants Evan to learn to do the right think and to think of others above himself, another Biblical principle.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:34-40)

We find another Christian lesson in “Evan” in Evan’s reluctance to building the ark. God has a purpose for Evan’s life, but Evan does not want any part in it. Building the ark pushes Evan into hard times and trials. Friends at work make fun of him and his family almost leaves him. Despite his dragging of feet, Evan finds he cannot get away from God or God’s purpose. God is everywhere and no matter what you do He will always bring about His purpose. This reminds us of stories like Jonah and Esther. Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah, but God sent him there against his will and consequently saved many people. Esther took a risk and did the unthinkable to save her people.

When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:12-16)

Evan also feels unqualified and ill-equipped to change the world once he gets into office. Although he wears a mask of pride, things are not as great as they seem and he goes to God in prayer for help. There are two things to learn from this. First, we learn that when we go through times of trouble, we can take our mask off and go to God for help. Second, we learn that God created us for a purpose. Sovereign and in control, we can always trust in God that all things will come out for the good.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you. (Psalm 71:6)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13)

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16)

God is mighty, but does not despise men; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose. (Job 36:5)

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands. (Psalm 138:8)

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills {his purpose} for me. (Psalm 57:2)

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

In some areas “Evan” misses. It forgets God’s ultimate purpose: to declare His glory and the hope we find in Jesus Christ. “Evan” hits the mark in many areas, but it never mentions Jesus and places God’s job around human needs. Besides this, one has to wonder if God would actually ever appear in person. God hardly ever fully appears in the Bible. The people of the Old Testament were not allowed to approach God improperly. If you mishandled the ark of the covenant you would die on the spot. Priests would wear a string around their ankles when they went into the holy of holies once a year. If they died in the presence of God others could pull their body out. Moses saw God in the form of a burning bush. Jacob wrestled with God, but this is the only place you really find someone in the full presence of God in person. Keeping God in person form with supernatural powers does not seem so bad when you consider how a loud voice from the heavens would make the film cheesy. The film also forgets that God does have wrath, He's not all happy man. In reality, He did judge the people of the earth with the original flood, but He loved the people of the earth as well. God showed His perfect judgment and good will with the flood.

The film does have a few inappropriate moments. One of Evan’s sons makes one or two crude comments. Evan finds himself naked in front of the mail lady when he tried to sneak his way out of building the ark to go to work. Lastly, a few mild swear words pop up here and there. Despite these few elements, “Evan” comes out fairly clean and will not offend Christian movie goers. So if you are a fan of "Bruce Almighty" and can't nejoy a movie without a bunch of lousy sex jokes, don't go see "Evan."

The acting is excellent. Wanda Sykes adds punch when needed and John Goodman once again tackles the role of the badguy. Nice to see, or rather hear, him in something other than the Dunkan Donuts commercial for once. Overall, the script is well written, the comic relief is well placed, and the audience is unlikely to fall asleep. "Evan" even ends with a rainbow and doves. How appropriate for a happy ending.

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