There is a guilty pleasure one gets from watching characters we identify with struggle on screen, and we begin to think to ourselves that maybe our lives aren't so bad after all. Such is the case in Bruce Almighty, a new release from Universal Pictures directed by Tom Shadyac. The movie is by no means sensational or groundbreaking, but it has an irresistible charm that draws in viewers in desperate need of a break from reality. The unfortunate protagonist (Jim Carrey) becomes convinced that God has abandoned him after he loses a coveted news anchor position to a slimy coworker. God (Morgan Freeman) grants Bruce his heavenly powers and challenges him to do a better job, pointing out that " Gandhi only lasted a week!" .
Predictably, events spin out of control as Bruce is overwhelmed by prayers (received in the form of e-mails), and he manages to lose the only woman who had ever truly cared for him. It's easy to wonder what caring and compassionate Jane sees in the somewhat narcissistic and negative Bruce, but Jennifer Aniston pulls off the role beautifully, with an ease that assures her movie career will continue to thrive. Of course, Carrey provides the life force of the movie, and it is his inimitable physical humor and impeccable comedic timing which save a script bordering on cheesy and overdone.
Most satisfying of all is watching Bruce's conversion from a self-absorbed man suffering from a middle age crisis to a considerate human being aware of other people's emotions. As God he initially grants all wishes, and pandemonium breaks out, as the real God explains that humans usually don't know what will truly make them happy. New cars and winning lottery tickets do little for those in search of self validation. More often than not this is provided by something as simple as a relationship with a loved one. God hit the nail right on the head when he told Bruce, "People need to stop always looking up for answers and instead learn to look within themselves.