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Thursday, 4 October 2007

Evan Almighty's Web site is as conventional as the advertisements running regularly on Sydney's Christian radio station, 103.2 FM. Whether you want Christian Super or "Everyone's favorite funny man", stationery supplies or God's "perplexing request to build an ark", these vehicles of capitalism will deliver them to you.

With a smile. And a wink. You know you're being manipulated but it doesn't matter: Evan Almighty is to Western culture what Bollywood is to Indian: a madcap romp with a message.

Suits = 'bad'. Corrupt politician = 'doubter'. Confused wife = 'ripe for redemption'. The masculinist bias buried in the film is highlighted by (a) Joan Baxter (Lauren Graham) taking the kids to her mother's but returning when God (Morgan Freeman) gives her a neat lecture in a restaurant, and (b) the 'two-by-two' shtick that is based on an old, but well-known, fairy tale: the Bible.

But despite the heavy-handed messages, the main ones are valid. Acts of random kindness ('ark', get it?) and the maxim from Matthew: 'ask and you shall receive'. I do believe that these two elements provide many advantages and, since humans are social animals, it makes sense that they work.

Wrapping this up in a big, dopey 'combo' pack (biblical teaching with a large side of goofy dancing) also makes sense in the same way that such congregations as Hillsong (financial success is God's way) are. We make fun of them at our peril.

Best acting award from me goes to Jonah Hill as Eugene Tenanbaum, the geek of Capitol Hill who worships the parquet his boss, Evan Baxter, walks on. Eugene's machine-gun delivery and know-it-all earnestness strike me as particularly to be valued, if met with in an individual near you.

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