The trailer to the film Evan Almighty offended me more than most of the R-rated movie trailers. Does Hollywood think believing people are a bunch idiotic buffoons who have no real reverence for God, and that we’ll pay to watch our faith mocked (probably without even realizing it)? Yes, clearly. And maybe there are millions of you out there. But most faithful Christians and Jews have profound respect for God, and ought to be appalled at flippant portrayals of Him as a comedian with nothing more profound to say than slogans from popular bumper stickers.
I felt a lot less alone (though still on the uptight side) in my reaction after reading the comments of a non-believer who has the intelligence to understand what religion is about and how grotesque this Hollywood exploitation of religion is. Jump over to Slate and read David Plotz’s review, “Just Say Noah: Evan Almighty’s appalling effort to pander to religious moviegoers.” Mr. Plotz’s reaction resonated strongly with my response to the publicity of this allegedly “family film” (don’t damage your children’s respect for God and religion by taking them to this offensive film, which I refuse to see).
Universal has hired a religious marketing firm to sell Evan Almighty to churches and religious leaders, hoping to capture the same hundreds of millions in Christ dollars raked in by The Passion, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Bruce Almighty. If they succeed, it will be tragic, not because Evan Almighty is unfunny (although it certainly is), but because it will validate Hollywood’s embarrassingly stupid approach to religion and faith. If I were a believing man, movies like Evan would make me long for the days when Hollywood just ignored God. . . .
No, what’s disturbing about Evan Almighty is its flaccid approach to faith. All that is compelling, moving, and profound about the Noah story has been systematically excised. In the Bible, God chooses Noah to survive because Noah is a righteous man. But Evan is faithless and stupid, and comes to believe in God only because God hammers him over the head with about 137 miracles. Any moron will believe when an omnipotent divine being appears in the back seat of his car and starts sending him pairs of lions and giraffes. The lesson of the Bible is that faith is hard, and unrewarding, and painful. Faith is belief when there are no giraffes.
Shadyac told one early screening of religious leaders that he wants to use the film “to spread the idea of the good news.” But Evan Almighty also strips away anything Christian (or Jewish) about the story and replaces it with a message of universal hokum. God’s entire instruction to his flock? Practice “acts of random kindness.” (Look at the initial letters of that phrase.) That’s not religion or even morality. It’s a coffee mug slogan. The proof of Evan’s redemption is that he starts to like dogs.
I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but Evan Almighty makes me miss The Passion. It was a sadistic, horrifying movie, about a bloody and terrifying book. But Mel Gibson captured the sense of the story, the ideas of suffering and sacrifice that undergird Christianity. Evan Almighty is evidence that Hollywood wants the trappings of faith in movies, but without the substance.
Plotz misses the offense that Christians and Jews should feel at the ludicrous and most truly vain depiction of God in the film, a painful feature of the earlier Bruce Almighty travesty and several other Hollywood movies featuring God portrayed
by a comedian in a comic manner. But he is keen in picking up on some key problems that I hope will give you the faith to spend your money on something else besides Evan Almighty.