Evan Almighty is a 2007 comedy film, and sequel to Bruce Almighty (2003). It was directed by Tom Shadyac and stars Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, and Morgan Freeman reprising his role as God. Evan Almighty was released in cinemas on June 22, 2007. After jumping from Jim Carrey to Steve Carell as lead actor, production of the film began in January 2006. Several visual effect companies were used to provide CGI for the numerous animals and climactic flood scene at the end of the film.
Director Tom Shadyac focused on ensuring the film made a positive environmental impact during filming and, along with Universal Studios, stressed the animals' conditions were acceptable despite PETA objections. Evan Almighty had its premiere on June 10, 2007. An immense budget made the film the most expensive comedy film produced at the time. The film received generally negative reviews, and earned $31.2 million domestically in its opening weekend, recouping a fraction of its estimated $200 million budget.
Newly elected to Congress, former local television newsman Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) leaves Buffalo and shepherds his family to suburban northern Virginia, where his congressional campaign declares he will change the world without explaining how he will do so. On his first job, he meets Marty (John Michael Higgins), Rita Daniels (Wanda Sykes), and top congressman Chuck Long (John Goodman). Soon after his arrival, strange things start to happen: animals follow Evan without any apparent reason; he grows a beard that is restored wholly every time he shaves; eight vacant lots in Evan's neighborhood are purchased in his name; ancient tools and wood are sent to his house; and the number "614" appears everywhere he goes.
Evan soon learns the number indicates a verse in the book of Genesis, in which God instructs Noah to build an ark. Later, God (Morgan Freeman) appears and commands Evan to build a replica of Noah's Ark in preparation for a deluge. His family initially believes he is having an extraordinary mid-life crisis; later, his sons suspect something greater is occurring and assist him in the construction of the ark, although his wife Joan (Lauren Graham) does not. Reappearing, God tells Evan the flood will come at noon on September 22.
Animals later follow Evan to Congress. When he explains the reason for this, Chuck Long suspends him. Joan, upon seeing a news report that features the Ark, takes their three sons to her mother's house, thinking to abandon Evan. Evan then builds the Ark alone, gaining international notice. Some time after Joan leaves Evan, God appears to her as a waiter at a diner, wearing a name tag displaying "Al Mighty" (a play on "almighty"). In this guise, he tells her God does not give things, but only the opportunity by which to obtain things, citing togetherness of families as one of these things. Seeing his meaning, Joan returns to Evan to finish the Ark together. Meanwhile, word reaches Evan Chuck Long has commissioned a dam and has cut corners in doing so.
On September 22, Evan loads hundreds of animals onto the newly finished ark in front of live news crews and nearby citizens. Minutes pass wherein is no sign of rain, provoking the spectators' scorn. When a rainstorm is briefly present, Evan takes this as a sign of the coming deluge, but is proved wrong. Joan tells Evan to leave the Ark; Evan, however, remembers Congressman Long's dam, which he fears may burst. As he thinks on this, the dam does burst, flooding the streets. At this, all spectators and policeman board the ark, which sails down the streets of Washington D.C. on the floodwaters of the lake until it eventually lands touching the front of the Capitol. Evan then tells Long that the flood was caused by his poor design of the dam, which incites the other congressmen present to turn against Long. As investigations on Chuck Long are occurring, Evan and his family later go on a hiking trip, during which God reappears to Evan, telling him that the way to change the world is by doing one Act of Random Kindness ("ARK") at a time.
The film's screenplay was originally titled The Passion of the Ark, and was written by Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg. It became the subject of a seven-studio bidding war in April 2004. The script was sold to Sony Pictures in a deal worth $2,500,000 plus a percentage of the profits, a record for a spec script from previously unproduced writers. Universal Studios immediately made a deal to co-produce the script with Sony and have Steve Oedekerk rewrite it into the sequel to Bruce Almighty. Steve Oedekerk had previously been involved with Bruce Almighty as an executive producer and co-writer of the screenplay (with Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, who wrote the story). The studio later discarded the original The Passion of the Ark script completely, and Oedekerk fashioned a new script from scratch (only he received final credit on the finished film as screenwriter). Jim Carrey was asked to reprise his role as Bruce in the sequel, and when he declined, director Tom Shadyac convinced Steve Carell to accept the leading role in the sequel. Shadyac, reflecting on the first film, stated "[Carell] delivered some of the funniest stuff in the movie. We thought, ‘Why not take that character and spin him off into a different film?’".
Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston both declined to reprise their roles from Bruce Almighty. Although he did act in a sequel to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Carrey has said he is "not a big fan of doing the same character twice." This marks the third time (following Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd and Son of the Mask) that a sequel has been made to a Jim Carrey film wherein he declined to reprise his role.
The initial budget, at approximately $140 million, led Evan Almighty to become the most expensive comedy movie ever made. Added costs such as set construction, visual effects, and problems with filming multiple animals in a controlled location brought the budget up to $175 million. Once marketing for the film was also included, the film's entire budget was estimated to be around $200 million. The ballooning budget caused Sony to drop the project and hand it over entirely to Universal Studios. Part of the budget was Carell's payroll, where he earned a reported $5 million for his leading role. The Virginia Film Office estimates the film brought $20-25 million to Virginia, with the majority of it in the Charlottesville area.
Ark design and construction
Construction of the ark began in January 2006 and the scenes involving the ark were shot in a Crozet, Virginia subdivision called Old Trail. The ark was designed to meet the actual measurements of the biblical ark, measuring Template:Convert long, Template:Convert wide, and Template:Convert high. The ark's layout was also based on pictures in several children's books that crew members had read in their childhoods. When the characters were filmed during the day building the ark or were on location elsewhere, crew members would further construct the ark at night. A concrete base was built to support the weight of the large ark; after filming was completed, the ark was taken down in a week, and the base in another week.
In disassembling the set, everything that was salvageable from the ark was donated to Habitat for Humanity. "Leave no trace" was the slogan used by the director as part of the DVD's bonus features, "The Almighty Green Set".
Costumes and filming locations
To create Evan's beard and long hair, three designers would take three hours each day adding individual hairs using prosthetic adhesive and making Carell wear custom wigs. The wigs consisted of both human and yak hair. With his new look, Carell was sometimes nicknamed "Mountain Man", "Retrosexual", or "Unabomber." For his costumes, designers spoke with textile experts, researched historical information on the clothing that was likely worn at the time of Noah, and used aged fibers for the clothing.
Scenes for the film were filmed in various locations in Virginia, including areas in and around Crozet, Waynesboro, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Staunton, though some filming did take place at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California.
For the CGI used throughout the film, companies Rhythm & Hues (R&H) and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) developed different parts of the film. R&H focused on the animation of the animals, while ILM completed the final scene of the ark rushing through Washington D.C. Lindy De Quattro, the ILM associate visual effects supervisor, revealed that "This is the first time where we had to do a whole series of shots that were happening mid-day, where you were going to get a really long look at the water and what it was doing." The company initially experienced problems creating the water effects and had to develop new tools which would choreograph the movements of the water. In addition, ILM used similar tools that were used on their prior film Poseidon. Lighting was also an issue as the characters on the ark had been filmed on a greenscreen stage, and the visual effects company had to ensure that the lighting matched that of the characters and the outside setting. Details were added to the ark for long-distance shots to make the design of the ark more appealing and relate the ark's size to scale in comparison to the amount of water. To complete the scene, ILM used thirty to sixty crew members and produced 200 shots over a yearlong period between April 2006 and May 2007.
Rhythm & Hues created 300 pairs of animals for use on the ark and fifteen pairs with higher detail for closeup shots. R&H was also assisted by C.I.S. Hollywood, another visual effects company, who provided a large number of composites, involving hundreds of greenscreen animal elements. In scenes where there are multiple species of animals, crew members would film the animals on the greenscreen and R&H and C.I.S would digitally add the animals one at a time, sometimes taking several weeks to a couple months. Andy Arnett, the animation supervisor, declared that "The research was extensive. It took six or seven months to perfect the look and feel of the animals before we had the first shot out the door."
For the scene in Congressman Long's office, CGI was used the entire time for the fish that follow Evan around from the fish tank. CafeFX, the visual effects company hired for the scene, ordered ten different kinds of tropical fish from a local store and studied their movements to imitate them on screen using computer animation. Jeff Goldman, the visual effects supervisor, stated "Early in the sequence, we mimicked the actual behavior of the fish in our animation, but as the scene plays out, the fish are a counterpoint to Steve Carell's comedic timing."
In late May during production, the media learned that director Tom Shadyac angrily complained to producers, saying "I'm not seeing any ads, and I don't know why. I'm not getting answers. People are giving me information that isn't true...I'm only hearing about all the other summer movies, and nothing about mine." Shadyac also fired his marketing consultants that he had used for prior films due to his thoughts over the mishandling of the marketing. He later apologized for his outburst with producers, and claimed that it was as a result of his nervousness before the film's release.
Grace Hill Media, a marketing firm that targets religious Americans, held exclusive screenings of the film in mid-June in fifty cities in the United States to reach religious moviegoers. The firm was also used for marketing Bruce Almighty, The Da Vinci Code, and The Passion of the Christ. Grace Hill provided free screenings to blogs in exchange for publicity on the blogs.
The first trailer of the film premiered on March 29, 2007 for a The Office marathon, which also stars Steve Carell and Ed Helms. For online advertising, an eight-minute clip of a scene was released on Yahoo! two days before the release of the film. The premiere for the film was held on June 10, 2007 and guests included Adam Sandler, David Hasselhoff, Kate Flannery, Eddie Murphy, Kevin James, and Mindy Kaling, among others.
Director Tom Shadyac felt the film reflected environmental themes of how humans are stewards of God's creation. In keeping with the themes, Evan Almighty became NBC Universal’s first film to offset the production's carbon emissions. Producer Michael Bostick revealed how the emissions were offset:
"We worked closely with The Conservation Fund to calculate our carbon emissions from what we
used on the movie—whether from vehicles used or any of the construction equipment. Once our carbon emissions were calculated, we planted trees that will effectively zero out
our climate-changing footprint left behind from the movie."
Shadyac accomplished this by requiring crew members to plant 2,050 trees at the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Warsaw, Virginia and the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge near Modesto, California. He also bought bikes for all the cast and crew. In addition, rather than simply demolishing sets, Shadyac tried to donate houses built for the production and had the Ark set recycled, by donating materials to Habitat for Humanity. During the premiere of the film for cast and crew at Universal Citywalk, the attendees were encouraged to donate to a campaign to plant trees in forests around the world. The after party used recycled cups and plates to offset the use of resources. Shadyac also required that when Industrial Light & Magic developed the final climatic scene, that the CGI flood did not appear to harm any of the trees in the scene.
The film partnered with the website Get On Board Now, which focused on the importance of conservation during production of the film. Donations were taken at the website for The Conservation Fund, which paid for the planting of 15,000 trees.
Animal welfare concerns
The American Humane Association oversaw the 177 species of animals that were used in the film. In scenes including both predators and prey, the animals were digitally added instead to ensure their safety. The American Humane Association gave its permission for the film to display "No animals were harmed in the making of this movie" over the closing credits.
Animal rights organization PETA accused the film's producers of using animals that had previously been abused. Two chimpanzees who appear in the movie, Cody and Sable, were surrendered by their owner to settle a lawsuit that documented allegations of beatings and mistreatment. The film's director, Tom Shadyac, said of PETA’s criticisms "They’re not wrong. There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy whenever you work with animals, even to show, which we hope we’re showing, that respect of all of God’s creation...I don’t know. I respect their criticism." PETA was also critical of Birds & Animals Unlimited, the primary animal supplier to the film, for alleged serious and continuing violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act, including failure to comply with veterinary care requirements and failure to provide shelter from heat and sunlight, which PETA details and claims it can document. A Universal Studios spokesperson declared:
"The live animals used in the filming of Evan Almighty were supplemented by a great number of computer-generated animals, but it would have been impossible to depend on CGI exclusively as some key scenes in the film demonstrate the need for peaceful and productive co-existence between man and animals. One of the most prominent, inescapable messages of the film is the responsibility that humans have to protect and care for animals."
Evan Almighty received poor reviews from multiple critics and viewers. The film has a 23% approval rating based on 183 reviews from critics at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, and an 8% rating from its "Top Critics". At the website MetaCritic, which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film earned a rating of 37/100 based on 33 reviews. Richard Roeper in his review of the film commended Jim Carrey for not reprising his role in "three of the worst sequels of all time", which included Dumb and Dumberer, Son of the Mask, and Evan Almighty. He continued: "Evan Almighty is a paper-thin alleged comedy with a laugh drought of biblical proportions, and a condescendingly simplistic spiritual message." Several reviews credit Carell's performance to significantly improving the humor of the film. Brian Orndorf, of eFilmCritic.com, wrote "As a crowd-pleasing, undemanding matinee diversion, Evan Almighty is a far more satisfying production than Bruce Almighty, and that, to me, is a great thing. Even if the nonsense gets under your skin from the first frame, it’s hard to ignore that Carell is a natural at this leading man business." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared the film the year's Worst Epic on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007.
Before Evan Almighty was released, it was nominated for "Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet" at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Competing against seven other nominees, it lost to Transformers. According to box office figures, the film is the second highest-grossing film about "Supernatural Comedies with Religious Elements" according to Box Office Mojo, directly behind Bruce Almighty.
Malaysia's Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) called for a ban on the film, claiming it is offensive to Islam. Secretary-General Maamor Osman claimed that the film was depicting the great flood as comedy and characterized God with the portrayal of a human, both of which are insulting to Islam. Similarly there was some public protest against Bruce Almighty being shown in theaters, but that movie was released on DVD and is now shown on television broadcasts. Evan Almighty was still released in Malaysia on August 23, 2007.
Though Evan Almighty was very hyped, especially with churchgoers, and had a budget double that of Bruce Almighty, it performed under expectations. On its first weekend, it opened in 5,200 screens in 3,604 theaters and earned about $31.1 million (on its first two opening days the film earned $11.4 million and $8.3 million on Sunday). The opening was less than half of the first film's $68 million weekend ($85 million counting Memorial Day). Nikki Rocco, the president of distribution for Universal Pictures declared "We never expected it to be much higher...it is not unusual for family films to open at a level like this and build. This film will have legs." Despite the unfavorable opening, it managed to remain at the third spot at the box office in its second week, before dropping to fifth place in its third week.
Internationally, the film also opened in first place in Russia and Ukraine, earning $1.5 million in Russia with 329 venues and $179,000 in Ukraine at 64 locations. The gross in the opening weekends for the two countries was 10% and 11%, respectively, bigger than the opening for Bruce Almighty. Altogether, the film has earned $173,391,888 worldwide with $100,462,298 in the U.S. and $72,929,590 in the international box office.
Blu-ray / DVD
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on October 9, 2007 and was the fourth-most rented DVD of the week earning $6.41 million. In the film's first six weeks of release it earned $27,676,676 in domestic DVD sales. The Blu-ray and DVD's special features include deleted scenes, outtakes, cast interviews, and footage of the animals used in the film.
The score for the film debuted on June 19, 2007, several days before the film's U.S. release, while the soundtrack debuted on July 3, 2007.
- "Ready For A Miracle" (LeAnn Rimes)
- "One Love" (Jo Dee Messina)
- "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" (John Fogerty)
- "Walk On Water" (Blue County)
- "Spirit in the Sky" (Plumb)
- "The Power Of One" (Bomshel)
- "Be the Miracle" (Room for Two)
- "God Makes Stars" (Hal Ketchum)
- "This Land Is Your Land" (The Mike Curb Congregation)
- "Never Give Up" (Tracy Edmond)
- "Revolution" (Blue County)A
- "Revolution" (Stone Temple Pilots)
- "Sharp Dressed Man" (Jo Dee Messina)
- "Sharp Dressed Man" (ZZ Top)
- "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" (C+C Music Factory)
- "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
A"Revolution" was performed by Rascal Flatts in the film, but their version is not on the soundtrack. Also not included on the soundtrack are Elton John's 2006 hit, Just Like Noah's Ark of which only a little bit is heard during the start of building the ark, and John Mayer's Waiting On The World To Change, used in the main ark-building montage.
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