Morgan Freeman as God? Well, why not? He has the advancing age and regal bearing and sonorous voice to be considered dignified, and possess sufficient gravitas, but he also has a sense of humor, laughs easily, and can even dance, on occasion.
Steve Carrell as Noah? Well, why not? As recently-elected Congressman Evan Baxter, he has the name recognition, organizational skills, and the personal charisma. He's lacking somewhat in the faith category, but that can be developed, because he's the kind of man who works hard, loves his family, tells the truth, can invest himself in the grandiose, and does not give up easily.
"Evan Almighty" is a whimsical, humorous modern fable, which borrows heavily from the biblical account, but with a twist. God wants this man, Evan Baxter, to build an ark, not because the whole world is going to flood (God promised not to do that again, remember?), but only this particular housing project is going to flood, because the shoddily-constructed dam is going to burst. Besides, God kinda liked the way the beautiful valley looked when it was created, not how the developers defaced it. Yes, there's a whiff of anti-big-business here, and a wave to ecology, but this lighthearted film is not going to get bogged down in the quagmire of an ongoing political debate. We're too busy playing with our computer-generated imagery, thanks very much. It's fun to have lions walking on the ark with the sheep, and giraffes helping build the trestles, and monkeys fetching the nails. (Of course, we can't resist the poop jokes.) And it's even more fun to create a big flood, with the newly-constructed ark floating securely above the chaos (the difference being that we've saved the whole neighborhood, too, and they're enjoying the view from the deck, kind of like a big amusement park ride).
What's likeable about this film is not only that it takes religion seriously yet has a good sense of humor, it also preaches some genuine family values: stay together, even when you're having a hard time understanding each other. Spend quantity time together, and some of it will become quality time. Oh, and don't forget the acronym for ARK: an act of random kindness. Every day. Wouldn't that make the world a better place?
Yes, indeed. Here, at last, is an interesting, engaging film for everyone in the family. Sure, the cynical critics will lambaste its relational simplicity, its saccharin theology, and its determined optimism, but those are precisely the qualities that make it so endearing. You can take the Youth Group to this one, and the older adult group, also. And if you really want to have a discussion afterwards, you can debate God's little speech about how the original Flood wasn't about destruction and punishment, but about love and preservation. Now that's looking at the rainbow instead of the rain.
Questions For Discussion:
1) This film deals with God, prayer, the bible, religion, and faith without once mentioning Church, clergy, corporate worship, sacraments, or anything remotely ecclesiastical. Is that good or bad?
2) How do you interpret the original Flood epic in Genesis 6-9?
3) How well does Morgan Freeman fit your image of God?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas