What is in the water in Hollywood? Paris Hilton just emerged from jail fresh-faced, declaring her new life mission post-DUI lock-up. “God has given me this new chance,” Hilton proclaims. The ultimate playgirl is ready to change and “become a positive role model for women.”
Hilton isn’t the only tinsel town persona on a mission. The main character in Universal Picture’s new ‘modern day Noah’ film, Evan Almighty, is a freshman congressman elected under the slogan “Change the World.” When Evan Baxter (Steve Carrel) asks for God’s help to fulfill his campaign promise he gets some tough love. Evan has to shed his cocky, image-obsessed ways before he can begin to make a difference. Resonates a bit with the story of a certain statuesque blonde, wouldn’t you say?
Evan gets unexpected piles of wood in his front yard, an unshaveable beard, packs of wild animals following him around, and a copy of Ark Building For Dummies; Paris gets weeks in jail. Probably not what either of them had in mind, but God works in mysterious ways…and it seems he has been busy in Hollywood fiction and reality this week.
Consider the ‘almighty’ gamble Universal is taking with this film. Evan Almighty is the most expensive comedy ever made—with a production tab of $250 million; but the platinum price tag is just the tip of the risk iceberg that Universal is dealing with. Into a marketplace where secular movies pumped full of off-color, sexual, violent octane are the regular winners at the box office finish line, the studio releases a clean movie that honors traditional family values and…God forbid…God!!!
The movie even takes the authority of scripture seriously. God haunts Evan with the number 6:14; his alarm clock goes off at 6:14, his new extension is 614, and his new license plates read “Gen 614.” When God’s nudges become too blatant to ignore, Evan finally looks up Genesis 6:14 (the command to Noah: “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood”). As he reluctantly obeys this calling to build an ark to prepare for a (apparently VERY unlikely) flood in his sunny Virginia neighborhood, he loses his pride, and a few fingernails, and earns ridicule from his colleagues and community who are certain he is crazy!
The more ridiculous Evan looks to everybody around him, as he takes on the ‘Noah task’ and appearance (boat, beard, robe and all), the more his story echoes the experience of many individuals trying to follow spiritual principles and callings today. In our modern culture, we are fundamentally suspicious of anything spiritual, supernatural or providential. Despite this cultural bias, Evan persists with his “upstream” task of placing God and family first. As Evan gives up his “plans” and obeys God, he unwittingly reconciles with his family, finally spending time with them as they master carpentry skills, renews faith within his community, and begins to change the world.
There are substantial spiritual and moral messages tucked neatly into this feel-good ‘kid flick’! What more can we ask of a movie targeted to young families who usually have little to choose from on the Hollywood menu? As members of the Christian community we should be pinching ourselves, and flocking to theaters—casting votes with our $9.75 ticket purchases that Hollywood can send contributive messages to culture and make a buck in the process! After all they don’t call it show business for nothing. If the Christian contingent in America won’t get behind a movie like Evan Almighty to help make it successful, we are crazy to think that Hollywood will continue to throw money at faith and family-friendly money pit projects.
The sad fact is that this weekend Evan made only 32 million dollars—about half of what was expected. Bad reviews flowed in from many directions (Christian and secular) complaining that “Evan” doesn’t appeal enough to adults, that Steve Carrel’s character is “annoying,” and that there are “logical plot flaws” in the movie.
What do you say to someone who goes to a local pizza joint for dinner and walks out in a huff because there wasn’t a decent rack of lamb on the menu? What about a disgruntled customer demanding a refund on a Disneyland ticket because there are too many Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck characters running around the park?
Personally, I didn’t see a whole lot to hate in the movie. I couldn’t help but leave the theater with a ‘little kid again’ spring in my step. The fact is that Steve Carrel’s energy is contagious and charming. Evan’s effects are stunning. The use of real animals is a spectacle in itself worth the ticket price. If you can’t derive any enjoyment or laughter from an uplifting family movie complete with talented actors, high production value, clean jokes, and wild animals (Carrel included) dancing exuberantly, then you should ask yourself if you are missing the point.
It’s about time to nix the callous stance every time Hollywood makes a step in the right direction. If Paris Hilton emerges from jail with a new call on her life, who are we to scoff? We should embrace her step toward the Good and God. And with regards to Universal’s film, if our reflex is to doubt and criticize when movies and public figures honor faith and family, shame on us. Have Christians become as cynical as the rest of modernity?
Is nothing good enough for us?