Hollywood discovers new jackpot in old-fashioned 'Bruce'

Posted: Jun 05, 2003 12:00 AM
Holy cow, Bruce, have you seen the new Jim Carrey flick? What do you get when a movie crosses a) respect and reverence in a cinematic portrayal of the God most Americans worship and b) fart jokes?

You get $135 million bucks in less than two weeks, that's what.

"Bruce Almighty" is the movie that seriously asks the question: What if God were one of us? Apparently what we would get is a Jimmy Stewart wannabe who lassoes the moon for his girlfriend, only to inadvertently cause flash flooding halfway around the world due to what scientists call unusual lunar activity.

Not since "Sister Act" has Hollywood made such a frank homage to what used to be considered mainstream religion in this country. As Bruce Nolan, Jim Carrey goes on a spiritual journey that leads him to, first, rebellion -- "You are the one who should be fired!" he shouts at God, and "Smite me, o mighty smiter," -- and eventually to explicit spiritual surrender. He learns that there is a God and he is not Jim Carrey, er, Bruce Nolan. He learns that it is better to give than to receive. He learns that true love is all that matters and that true love wants to give happiness to the beloved, in this case to a long-suffering, devoted, preternaturally attractive girl-next-door played by Jennifer Aniston.

"The woman's name is Grace, for goodness sake," director Tom Shadyac points out to a particularly dense group of Christian reviewers in an interview posted on hollywoodjesus.com. "She is literally grace in his life. And he doesn't see it."

Questioned about the abundant questionably gratuitious material, aka fart jokes and premarital sex, Shadyac goes all highbrow: "If people will not go to see 'Bruce Almighty,' then (they) shouldn't pick up Confessions by St. Augustine. Because he lived a very worldly life -- with all the trappings of the world. And look at St. Paul. Don't read St. Paul, please. He killed Christians. He didn't just sleep with someone before marriage. He killed Christians. "

In the ongoing heated Internet debate over whether Christians should like a movie that a) is about spiritual surrender to a personal God who loves us but b) also has juvenile humor, social observers seem to have missed an even more amazing fact about "Bruce Almighty."

It is a post-feminist film. No, it is a post-post-post feminist film. No, let's face it. In "Bruce Almighty," Hollywood has produced its first PRE-feminist film in 30 years. Jim Carrey is Jimmy Stewart with body function jokes. Jennifer Aniston is just plain Doris Day.

As Grace, Jennifer is the adorably blond good girl who works with children, volunteers for her community, cooks (!) for her boyfriend, and wants nothing more than to settle down, get married and make babies with the man she loves. "Bruce Almighty" even features that old Hollywood standby -- a sexual villainess who is (surprise!) a brunette and a career girl.

Can you still do this in Hollywood? Won't they take away your movie-making license? The amazing thing is the dusty old formulas, trotted out and updated, apparently still work. Feminism, schmeminism. It's at $135 million bucks and counting. Ka-ching.

Of course, good things do not last forever. Maybe "Bruce Almighty" is not the start of a new trend to old-fashioned movies. After raking in $85 million its first weekend out, "Bruce Almighty" was dethroned last weekend ...

... by "Finding Nemo," the story of a devoted father fish desperately seeking to save his motherless son.

"Bambi," anyone?