DVD Picks & Passes 10.07.2007

Evan Almighty (2007) - pick

Little Women (1978) - pick

New this week on DVD, Evan Almighty is somewhat misleadingly titled. What the name tells you is that it’s is a sequel to Bruce Almighty, with the Almighty again played by Morgan Freeman, but without Jim Carrey’s Bruce.

Returning director Tom Shadyac again brings his brand of fuzzy pop spirituality, and Evan (Steve Carell) actually is a returning character from the first film, if only by a technicality.

But this sequel isn’t about God giving omnipotent power to another news anchor. Instead, God has a mission for the hero: He wants Evan to build him an ark. “That’s flood territory!” Evan protests. “You wouldn’t do that again, would you?”

“Whatever I do,” God answers, “I do because I love you.”

Being loved by God, the film suggests, may not always be sunshine and roses.

“Do me a favor — love me less,” Evan mutters, sounding like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof wishing God would “choose someone else” besides the Jews for a while. Compared to Bruce Almighty, Shadyac’s pop spirituality comes off a bit better in Evan, I guess. Certainly there’s nothing here as problematic as the earlier film’s “Be the miracle” pap, in which God suggested that people need to stop “looking up” and look to themselves instead. On the other hand, much as Bruce Almighty ignored Bruce’s cohabitation with his girlfriend, Evan Almighty brushes aside the theme of judgment and sin in the story of Noah’s ark.

Rather than judgment or salvation, Evan Almighty offers an inoffensive message of conservationism and family togetherness, leavened by bestiary slapstick. Harmless, diverting, very mildly uplifting, Evan Almighty offers passable family entertainment meant to appeal equally to Bible-believing conservatives and left-leaning environmentalists. Family audiences could do worse. On the other hand, you might do better reading your kids the real Noah story and then taking them to the zoo. (Hat tip to Lisa Popcak of the Catholic radio show “Heart, Mind & Strength” for that wry suggestion.)

Also new this week on DVD is the 1978 TV adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-adapted Little Women. At more than three hours long, this version brings more of Alcott’s story to the screen than some familiar big-screen versions, including the classic 1933 Cukor film honored on the Vatican film list and the 1994 version with Winona Ryder.

The fine cast includes Meredith Baxter Birney as Meg, Susan Dey as Jo, Eve Plumb as Elizabeth, Dorothy McGuire as Marmee and Greer Garson as Aunt March. “Star Trek” fans may get a kick out of seeing William Shatner as Freidrich Bhaer together with future “Next Gen” alum John de Lancie as Frank Vaughn.

Technical credits are solid, including costume design by Edith Head (the inspiration for The Incredibles’ Edna Mode) and score by Elmer Bernstein (The Ten Commandments).

Content advisory

Evan Almighty: A rude expression or two; mild crass humor (animal poop jokes, crotch trauma humor, etc.). Okay family viewing. Little Women: Nothing objectionable.

Thomas’ Promises

Christopher Wolfe co-directs the Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies at Notre Dame. But now he is setting off on a new venture: starting a college that will give students a “unified, integrated conception of reality” based on the scholarship of Thomas Aquinas. By Monta Hernon.